Not only was the 2016-’17 season a magical season for Miles Bridges, it was one of the best we’ve seen from a Big Ten freshman in at least the last decade or so.
There absolutely were more believers than doubters about whether or not Bridges could immediately translate his talent to the NBA.
But when Bridges decided to return to East Lansing this season, every college basketball fan knew there would be an opportunity to see a unique level of greatness from an underclassman guard.
Bridges also had to be aware of the fact that returning to Michigan State arose multiple risks that easily could have been avoided if he simply chose to go to the NBA immediately.
As good as the guard is, a significant, career-ending injury can occur to any player at any moment. And who knows, maybe Bridges’ production would have surprisingly regressed this season.
As anticipated, Bridges picked up right where he left off this season. Though his rebounding numbers were a little low, the guards’ average of 19.7 points through the first three games this season proved he was continuing to improve. But, unfortunately for Bridges, one of the downsides of returning to the NCAA became evident almost immediately. Of course, this was an injury.
The left ankle injury suffered by the guard against Stony Brook early in the season had every MSU fan holding their breath. Luckily, the injury was far from servere. Still, all eyes were on how Bridges would adjust from the setback.
Of course there have been plenty of successful NBA players that faced health issues in college. Bridges even did last year as well. But, theoretically, if Bridges knew he was going to get hurt this season there is a good chance he would have opted out of East Lansing and headed straight to the NBA Draft.
The first four games after Bridges returned from the ankle injury raised a minor red flag. The guard scored only 10.8 points per game, way below his career average. Obviously four games is a small sample and not nearly enough games to say the talented guard would have a disappointing sophomore season when everything is said and done.
Those measly four games ended up being all the time Bridges needed to drown out the voices of any doubters. The guard dropped 21 points against Rutgers on December 5th and since then Bridges has proved he is back to full form.
In the following four games after Rutgers, Bridges has averaged 19.5 points and seven rebounds per game. That’s also included a double-double and a 33-point outing, tying a career high.
The bottom line is that the manner in which Bridges has adjusted to his ankle injury has actually improved his NBA outlook.
The fact that Bridges hasn’t really regressed since the injury legitimizes his durability and, for the time being, proves that returning to MSU was beneficial. The sky seemed to be the limit for Bridges at the conclusion of the 2016-’17 season. If that ceiling could possibly be any higher, this season has been a testament to that.