Mikal Bridges: The Phoenix Suns X-Factor
The Phoenix Suns recently broke a franchise winning streak record with 18 straights win. Behind the leadership of Chris Paul, scoring prowess of Devin Booker, and interior presence of Deandre Ayton, it's easy to credit these three for the Sun's recent success. That is just crazy. Since the last postseason, it's clear that the Suns' "Big Three" can't get all the credit for what this team has become. The x-factor for this team is Mikal Bridges. Simple.
My first time watching Mikal Bridges play was in 2016 when he was at Villanova. As a freshman, he only played 15 minutes and scored 2 points. His team ended the game victorious over North Carolina and hoisted the NCAA 2016 Championship. Bridges' impact on the game wasn't visible, but he would get another chance to showcase his talents on the national stage at the 2018 NCAA Championship game. Being two years older and wiser, Bridge's played 36 minutes and put up 19 points and 4 rebounds. The story stayed the same; Villanova won another chip, the second for Bridges in three years.
That same year Bridges was drafted 10th, by the Suns. Upon arrival into the league. Bridges immediately started growing into an NBA quality "three and D" wing. Fast forward to the present day; he has done just that. So far he averages 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.6 steals. His numbers don't jump off the stat sheet; because that isn't needed. Mikal Bridges is one of those players who pass the eye test when you watch them. Not to mention he is shooting 54% from the field, 42% from three, and 86% from the charity stripe.
Bridges' value to the Suns is mainly on the defensive end. Standing at 6'7 with a 7'1 wingspan. Bridges' physical tools give him an advantage defensively. His defensive capabilities were on full display on November 30th. As the primary defender on Stephen Curry; he held him to his worst shooting night (where 20 shots were attempted). Steph ended that night shooting 19% from the field (4/21). It was obvious that Bridges' defense was the cause of this. Steph tried running off screens to get free. On a few occasions, he did, until Bridges' would recover and contest him somehow some way.
At only the age of 25, Bridges has room to grow. Where he is right now isn't too shabby for what his team needs. After reaching the NBA playoffs and Finals last season, you can see that the experience has helped this Suns team as a whole. For the the Suns to finish where they left off last season, Bridges is going to have to play a pivotal role. His stellar defense and steady shooting from beyond the arc at this moment, could serve as foreshadowing of what's to come.
Will he be able to add a NBA championship ring next to his two NCAA ones? We could only sit back and watch; thats the beauty of the game.