Pre-Draft Report | Homegrown Talent Sees Potential Fit
Following Mikal Bridges’ visit with the 76ers, both parties were in agreement:
Should the locally-born and raised Great Valley High School and Villanova product still be on the board when the Sixers pick tenth overall in the June 21st draft, the match might be too good to pass up.
Over the course of an hour-long individual workout Tuesday afternoon in Camden, NJ, Bridges was put through a series of drills that tested, among other things, his shooting, handle, and ability to get up and down the floor.
He thought the session was challenging, but left feeling good.
“They pushed me,” Bridges said. “It was a lot of running, shooting, defensive drills. It was fun.”
The 21-year old’s performance backed up much of what Sixers talent evaluators have observed from Bridges, either in person or on film, since he first put on a Wildcat uniform in the 2015-2016 season.
“In terms of the way we play - pace, space, defend - I think he checks a lot of those boxes,” Sixers Vice President of Player Personnel Marc Eversley said after Bridges finished his on-court activities. “His length, his quickness, his athleticism, his ability to shoot the ball - those are all things that I thought he did not only throughout his career, but he did today as well.”
For Eversley's money, Bridges first began gaining traction as a legit pro prospect during his sophomore campaign. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound wingman averaged 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists as a full-time starter, after serving as a key reserve on Villanova’s title team the previous season.
Also worth noting from Bridges’ second year on the Main Line, his 3-point shooting percentage jumped from 29.9 to 39.3, and he ended the season ranked second in the Big East with 60 steals, and first with a 93.3 defensive rating.
“We were like, you know what, we need to continue to track him, and see if he might be a fit going forward,” said Eversley.
For his final act as a junior this past season, Bridges made sure everyone in NBA scouting circles was paying attention. He posted three 20-point performances in Villanova’s first five games.
Then, in early December, Bridges erupted for a career-high 28-point performance against 2017 runner-up Gonzaga.
Four months later, Bridges and Nova were back in the championship game. He went for 19 points against Michigan, and guided the Wildcats to the national crown for the second time in his three-year playing career (Bridges redshirted his true freshman season).
By that point, Bridges’ status as a likely lottery pick was all but cemented. He told reporters Tuesday that if he were to ultimately land with his hometown team, the fit would be “perfect.”
“I know who they are, and how they play,” said Bridges, who was recruited to Villanova by current Sixers assistant Billy Lange, and whose mother is a human resources executive for the Sixers, and the team’s parent company, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.
Bridges considers himself the type of piece capable of complementing the budding young core the Sixers have put in place.
“They defend their behinds off, and get out in transition, which I love to do,” Bridges said of the Sixers. “It’s really cool watching them, and seeing the things they’ve been doing.”
Similar to the Sixers, Bridges’ stock has been on the rise in recent years. That he showed signs of progress and improvement each season at Villanova was no accident.
His redshirt year, his goal was to bulk up, and he did.
His first playing season, he wanted to be a spark off the bench, and he was.
In his second year with the Wildcats, Bridges focused on tightening up his defense, and becoming more of a playmaker. Check, and check again.
For his finale, the 2018 Third-Team All-American concentrated on stronger leadership, on and off the court. He also set out to dominate as much as he could.
Mission accomplished, on both fronts.
“By the end of my time, I just wanted to be the best basketball player I could be,” said Bridges. “I just tried to get better every year.”
Now sitting on the cusp of a watershed life moment and opportunity, Bridges intends to keep the same mindset, wherever he ends up.
“I’m not going to stop until I can be the best I can possibly be. I’m going to continue to keep doing that.”
Quotes of Note
The following sampling of quotes came out of the media availabilities surrounding the pre-draft workouts conducted by the Sixers on June 12th.
Villanova G - F Mikal Bridges
On trying out for the Sixers, his hometown team:
“Just play hard and play well. You want to of course play well here, especially in your hometown. In front of all these people, people that I know. Just to show them how better I got and how I matured as a player. It just felt good...putting on the Sixers practice stuff."
Vice President, Player Personnel Marc Eversley
On the Sixers heading into the 2018 draft:
"With six picks, I think our flexibility is pretty good. It allows us to either go up and get a good player, or maybe go back and get a good player."
Texas Tech G Zhaire Smith
On his workout with the Sixers, and aiming to be a first-round pick:
"I wanted to show my ability to shoot the ball, be able to play make, bring the ball up, come off screens, and make the right decisions."