With Villanova winning the National Championship last Monday over Michigan, that signaled the official end of the College Basketball season. While that is a disappointing idea to ponder, it does mean that the NBA draft is upon us. There are many great prospects coming out of the Big Ten this year and heading to the draft and many teams with poor records are sure to come out much better off.
Even though the Big Ten had a down year by it’s normal standards, there are still many very good and ready NBA prospects. We are starting our breakdown by talking about the player that has arguably the highest ceiling of all of them with Miles Bridges. Even though Jaren Jackson will likely be the first player out of the Big Ten drafted, Bridges is projected to be a lottery pick as well. The sophomore out of Michigan State was widely expected to declare after his stellar freshman season, but he decided to come back for one more year and chase a championship at Michigan State. They came up short and lost to Syracuse in the NCAA tournament and after the loss, Bridges surprised no one and declared for the 2018 NBA draft. Let’s take a look at his career at Michigan State and what he can bring to an NBA team.
Bridges was only at East Lansing for two years but made his presence known very quickly. He was the No. 8 overall recruit in the 2016 class according to ESPN and was a five-star recruit out of Huntington Prep. He played his freshman year above all standards and averaged a solid 16.9 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game and shot 49 percent from the field and 38 percent from three. He was widely considered a lottery pick and even top 10 but he decided to return to school for his sophomore season to help the loaded Spartans pursue a National Championship for the 2017-18 season.
Going into his sophomore season, Bridges was considered one of the best players in the country and one of the preseason favorites for the John Wooden Award. The Spartans came up short as they lost to Syracuse in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, but Bridges had another great year. He averaged 17.1 points per game and 7 rebounds per game. He also shot 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. Even though those numbers were slightly down, he improved his free throw percentage from 68 percent to 85 percent and turned the ball over less. Unfortunately, his college career came to a disappointing close as Michigan State was upset by Syracuse in the round of 32 and Bridges was just 4-for-18 from the field and 3-for-12 from deep. He finished with 11 points. He was named First Team All-Big Ten and Second Team All-American.
Bridges is one of the more promising NBA prospects in this draft and can be successful right away at the next level. There are many things that Bridges does very well, like handling the basketball, rebounding and his athleticism is off the charts. He is also a reliable free throw shooter and has worked on distributing the ball and helping his teammates get shots as well as himself. He is also quite versatile on the defensive side of the ball as he can guard most positions with success. He averaged almost a block a game and 0.7 steals per game during his sophomore season, but averaged 1.5 blocks per game his freshman year.
He also has his far share of weaknesses and things that could make him slip a little bit in this draft. His jump shot and shot from behind the arc can be inconsistent and his rebounding numbers slipped this past season, but that can be attributed to the addition of Jaren Jackson. He also has trouble creating his own shot off the dribble and is forced into a contested jump shot or a passing situation.
With that all being said, Bridges is still a very promising prospect and once he gets on an NBA team and works on his game, he can be one of the better rookies in the league next year.
Draft Prediction - Late lottery pick