Huge, huge commitment for Tom Izzo and his program…let’s get that out of the way right out of the chute. If you believe the rankings, I believe he’s the highest ranked guy to commit to MSU since Shannon Brown, a bit ahead of guys like Gary Harris and BJ Dawson. If you put faith in offers, well, he had them from everybody who matters in the college basketball landscape except Duke (and I suspect that was more of a choice made at an early stage in the process to emphasize Tatum, because believe me, Miles is not beneath them as a talent). If you trust your own eyes, go take a look at the copious amount of video out there on him…you’ll see what the hype is all about.
With Cassius Winston, I think you have to really, truly understand the game to fully comprehend how good he is and what kind of impact he’ll have on his team at the next level, because his game is filled with subtlety. With Miles, it’s the opposite…an alien beamed down from the next galaxy over, watching the game for the first time, would be able to tell that Miles is something special. He is that “wow” kind of athlete even neophytes can easily identify as being different from the others on the court.
So, it’s the explosive athleticism you notice first. I put him in the same category as a guy like BJ Dawson…perhaps not quite the freak, all time great that a Jason Richardson was but certainly not too far below that. I would expect he’ll be the best “athlete” (meaning leaper primarily) on the court in just about every college game he plays in, as was the case with Dawson. What does separate Bridges from BJ though is that his athleticism can impact the game more completely. For BJ, it was primiarly seen in terms of his rebounding and in transition, and you see that with Miles as well. However, because Miles has a reliable jumper and a solid and improving handle, defenses have to respect him away from the rim in ways they never did with BJ…which means Miles has driving lanes open up for him and that’s where you tend to see the “oh my God, did he just do that?” moments in his game. Like most of MSU’s best athletes in the Izzo era, Miles is also a “power” guy..he’s strong with a frame to maybe even get a little stronger, and that plus his attacking mentality produces more “rip the rim down” stuff than say Dr. J style finesse.
That strength helps him in the Izzo staple areas of rebounding and defense as well. I think as much as anything else, his ability and willingness to work in those parts of the game is what makes him an elite prospect and a safe bet to eventually be a first round draft pick, maybe as soon as the spring of 2017. When you have his athletic gifts and his underrated skill set, AND you’ll bust your tail doing dirty work, well, you’ve got a chance to be great. The only thing making me hesitate in predicting he gets into Dawson range in terms of rebounding numbers is that he’s going to be on a roster with a LOT of other good boarders, but believe it, Bridges will make an impact there.
What can he improve on? His shot is respectable, solid, reliable, but I don’t think you’d classify him as a “great” jumpshooter just yet. With his work ethic and MSU’s ability to elevate shooters, I would expect he’ll be a better shooter in March 2017 than he is now, and he’s pretty good now. He just isn’t great…yet. I think he has all the stuff to be a really good defensive player but even the best ones, the Gary Harrises, the Travis Waltons, etc. have to learn some things when they move up a level. I do expect him to be really good at that end, though.
I would be very, very surprised if he’s not a starter at MSU. I expect he will see a lot of time, maybe even the majority of his minutes, in the post, as MSU features him as its answer to the evolution toward smaller and more dynamic players at the power forward spot. He has all the physical tools and skills that a kid like Winslow had for Duke. It will work for Miles in terms of preparation for the next level as well, as Izzo has put multiple guys with his combination of size and game (Alan Anderson and Draymond Green) into the NBA having played the 4 for MSU. Izzo’s always had enough wrinkles offensively to put the ball in the hands of a skillled guy like Anderson at that position, and we all know how thoroughly Day Day was utilized. Now, as the game continues to evolve toward a spread the court approach with twin emphases upon jump shooting and creating lanes for penetration, it’s becoming easier to justify playing undersized guys at that spot. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the way Big Ten teams line up this winter…you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Bridges fits the requirements of the modern player at that spot to a “T.”
I think he’s going to be great and I think we’re all going to have a blast watching him play. This was a really, really big day for MSU, Izzo and the program.