Villanova's Mikal Bridges

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Schmeelk: Knicks Might Face Draft Decision Of Bridges vs. Bridges

Wing Is Arguably Team's Biggest Need

John Schmeelk
June 11, 2018 - 2:26 pm
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The Knicks have been very open about two things heading into the NBA draft.

The first is that they are still in talent-acquisition mode and will take the best player regardless of position. The second is that if all things are equal, the team would prefer to add a wing player. That brings us to the two top wing players in this draft class after Luka Doncic, who will likely be long gone before the Knicks pick at No. 9: Villanova's Mikal Bridges and Michigan State's Miles Bridges.

Both players seem to have the basic characteristics teams crave. They are 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-7, have positional versatility, and can shoot. Both guys also stayed in school for more than one season. But there are major differences the Knicks will have to sift through, as they might have to choose between the two players.

1. SHOOTING

Both of these guys can shoot.

Mikal Bridges: 17.7 PPG, 11.9 field goal attempts per game, 51.4% FG, 43.5% 3PT, 85.1% FT

Miles Bridges: 17.1 PPG, 13.4 FGA, 45.7% FG, 36.4% 3PT, 85.3% FT

I don’t think anyone would argue that Mikal isn’t the better pure shooter of the two. He is simply more consistent when getting open looks. Mikal also added some shooting off the dribble to his game this past season. His form is exactly what you are looking for with a quick and high release. He can catch and shoot on the move or from a standstill, off the dribble or even on short turnarounds in the post.

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Miles improved his free-throw percentage by 17 percentage points from his freshman to sophomore seasons, even while his 3-point percentage dropped by a couple of percentage points. He does not have as pure of a stroke as Mikal, and there are probably more questions about extending his range to the NBA 3-point range. He’s a good shooter, but not elite like Mikal.

Advantage: Mikal

2. SHOT CREATION

While Mikal was the better overall shooter, he was not asked to create his own shot much. He was also helped by Villanova’s system, which spread the floor and found him the type of shots he would excel at making. He has not shown the ability to go one-on-one, break somebody down off the dribble and get to the hoop.

Miles, on the other hand, was the guy Michigan State looked to when it needed shot creation. After playing power forward as a freshman, he was moved to the three as a sophomore, and it exposed some limitations in his ability to take smaller wings off the dribble. He was far better taking them into the post and using his strength against them. I haven’t seen anything close to a signature move from him. Even so, he was used much more as a ballhandler than Bridges on screen-and-rolls and is a better creator for himself and his teammates. This is not a way above average trait for Miles, but he is better than Mikal.

Advantage: Miles

3. ATHLETICISM

Mikal is attractive to teams because of his physical attributes (we’ll cover that next) but not his athleticism. He’s not super bouncy or explosive. He maximizes his movement skills, but this is not a strength for him. For example, Mikal finishes on the break well, but it won’t be with rim-rocking jams.

Miles is an excellent athlete. He is one of the best leapers and dunkers in the class, and he does have the raw athleticism necessary to improve as a shot creator. The question is how functional his athleticism is. For the most part, Bridges is a two-legged jumper, which can oftentimes limit the creativity needed to finish at the hoop. Right now, his athleticism shows up the most when finishing on the break and on cuts and slashes to the basket, rather than creating a shot off the bounce on the perimeter.

Advantage: Miles

Miles Bridges
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4. MEASUREMENTS

Mikal was not measured at the combine, but this is what ESPN has listed for the 21-year-old's measurements: 6-7, 204 pounds, 7-2 wingspan

Miles, meanwhile, is 6-6, 226 pounds with a 6-8 wingspan. He is 18 years old.

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Mikal is the far longer player, with a plus-6 height/wingspan difference, which is why he excels so much at defense. He has the ideal height and wingspan for an NBA wing.

Miles only has a 6-8 wingspan, which is a concern if you want him to play power forward in the NBA. He is the stronger player and can certainly battle inside better at 226 pounds. Some people put a lot into the fact that Mikal is a full three years older than Miles, and therefore has a lot less room for improvement. With that said, Mikal's length wins the day.

Advantage: Mikal

5. DEFENSE

At 6-7 with a 7-2 wingspan, Mikal might be able to guard four positions in the NBA. There are some times you see him get beat off the dribble by quicker guards, but the defensive versatility NBA teams crave is certainly there. He should also be able to guard small-ball power forwards as long he rebounds enough. (He had 5.3 rebounds per game as a junior.) He is also an excellent off-the-ball defender, averaging 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. NBA teams need wings who can switch every screen, and Mikal is that guy.

Is Miles a tweener? Do tweeners still exist in the NBA, since guarding and playing multiple positions is all the rage? The real question is whether you think Miles can survive defensively against quick 3s off the dribble, and is his 6-8 wingspan good enough for him to play power forward consistently? I’m not sure about either. If he can’t do either, especially the former, his usefulness defensively in the NBA is a real question mark. If he can do both off those things, he will be a good NBA player for a long time. This is something the Knicks will have to figure out.

Advantage: Mikal

Coming into this exercise I had Miles a full tier below Mikal on my big board. After picking through all the information, they are closer than I thought, but I would still select Mikal without hesitation because I am more sure about the things he can do well than I am about Miles. Those things -- his shooting and defensive versatility -- are also the most important features of a wing in the modern NBA.

The argument for Miles is that his superior athleticism and younger age give him far more room to grow as a player. If he can use that athleticism to be a shot creator on offense and a multipositional defender on defense, he will probably be a better player than Mikal. But I’m not convinced of that.

I would go with the safer bet: Mikal. I wonder what the Knicks will do if both players are available when they pick. I’d bet Mikal.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports.​