San Antonio Spurs Draft

San Antonio Spurs Draft Prospects: Miles Bridges

CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 22: Miles Bridges #22 of the Michigan State Spartans is seen during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at State Farm Center on January 22, 2018 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 22: Miles Bridges #22 of the Michigan State Spartans is seen during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at State Farm Center on January 22, 2018 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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A look at draft prospect Miles Bridges and his potential fit with the San Antonio Spurs.

With the NBA Draft less than a week away, teams across the league are finalizing additional workouts with prospects and developing their shortlist of players they want to target on June 21. The San Antonio Spurs hold the No. 18 and 49 picks in the draft. One of their options in the first round could be Miles Bridges, the explosive small forward from Michigan State.

The former Spartan flirted with the draft process a year ago and many believed he could have been a lottery pick, but Bridges elected to return to East Lansing for his sophomore season. The Flint, MI, native posted equally impressive numbers during his second year, averaging 17.1 points, 7 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 45.7 percent shooting.

The extra year of teaching and development from Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo paid dividends for Bridges, whose game elevated to a new level where he garnered Naismith Award and Wooden Award considerations. Bridges approached his second year on campus with a new sense of confidence and it showed in the way he played.

Bridges competed with an exciting and infectious swagger and a clear identity when it came to his game, which will make him one of the most pro-ready prospects in this draft class. Bridges is unafraid of the big stage or the bright lights and relishes the opportunity to deliver in the clutch. The 2-time All-American showcased that confidence when he hit a game-winning three-point dagger to lift the Spartans over the Purdue Boilermakers in a top-five, heavyweight Big 10 matchup.

Offensively, Bridges has a complete game. He can score from anywhere on the court and has the strength to finish tough plays around the rim. Bridges can make plays in the mid-range, back down smaller defenders in the post, and consistently knock down the three-pointer, connecting on 36.4 percent of his attempts during his sophomore campaign.

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Further, scouts and teams will love Bridges’ basketball IQ. He understands floor spacing and how to effectively move off-ball, which sets him up for wide-open looks from long distance or easy lobs and layups in the paint. Bridges is also a menace on the boards. He has the bounce to sky over taller players to finish put-backs but also has the vision to lead fast break opportunities after defensive rebounds.

From a physical standpoint, Bridges is a matchup nightmare. At 6’7” and 230 pounds, Bridges torched almost every defender that was tasked with guarding him. Because of his size and strength, he can dominate smaller guards on post-ups, allowing him to get easy looks around the rim. Bridges also has the shooting stroke to knock down the long ball in the face of his smaller defenders.

Additionally, with his speed and ball-handling skills, Bridges can feast on bigger defenders as well. Bridges has an array of ball and head fakes at his disposal that he used to get Big 10 foes in the air, opening up a lane for Bridges to attack off the dribble-drive.

Defensively, Bridges has the tools to be a solid defender in the NBA. Bridges averaged 1.1 blocks over his Michigan State career. His block numbers dipped significantly from his freshman to sophomore year, 1.5 to .8 blocks per game. That drop off can partially be explained by the emergence of Michigan State freshman F/C Jaren Jackson Jr., who took on the primary role of rim protecter last year, leading the Big 10 with 3 blocks a game.

That said, Bridges is no easy out on defense thanks to his length and physicality. Further, even if he gets beat initially, Bridges has the recovery speed to get back and contest a shot, or send it into the bleachers, which he also had a penchant for doing during his college days. However, Bridges will be drafted because of his offensive capabilities. If he turns into a defensive stud at the next level that will just be a bonus for whatever team drafts him.

If Bridges were to fall to the Spurs in the draft they would be getting one of the best playmakers in this draft class. The Spurs’ offense was stagnant last season without the services of Kawhi Leonard. With the hopeful return of the team’s star player and the potential addition of Bridges, the Spurs could have two versatile wing players who are polished offensively and can both contribute on defense. If Bridges can become a bigger threat with the three-point shot, the Spurs can field an extremely exciting lineup loaded with potential.

While Bridges seemed to be a near lock for a lottery pick a year ago, it is uncertain if he’ll garner a similar draft position despite the improvements to his game. Some project he could go as early as No. 11 to the Charlotte Hornets but he could drop.

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Could Bridges fall all the way to No. 18 for the Spurs? Unlikely, but if the Spurs are feeling bold they could make a few calls to see who’s considering the Michigan State swingman and potentially try to move up to grab him. The past indicates this probably won’t come to fruition but stranger things have happened.

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