Spurs Prospect Watch: Mikal Bridges

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LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26: Mikal Bridges #25 of the Villanova Wildcats celebrates defeating the Kansas Jayhawks 64-59 during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs have gotten off to a strong start to the season and are looking to be in prime position for a postseason run. That means another low pick in the NBA Draft. But that’s just fine because you’ll have full profiles on whoever the Spurs could possibly pick late in the first or second round here.

That brings up this week’s draft profile in Villanova’s Mikal Bridges. He has championship pedigree having been part of the team that took down UNC in the epic 2016 National Championship Game. He’s also set to become the go-to guy on this year’s squad as Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins are gone from that role. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward should be ready for a takeover this year and should help the Wildcats run the Big East yet again.

Here are some of his stats from the 2016-17 season:

  • 9.8 PPG, 0.9 BPG, 1.7 SPG, 2 APG, 4.6 RPG
  • 54.9 FG%, 39.3 3P%, 91.1 FT%
  • 130.3 ORtg, 93.3 DRtg

Bridges is obviously a very good shooter in small bunches, as he was averaging about 6.5 shots a game last year and that number should jump up significantly if not double up this season. What will be key is obviously maintaining similar averages while taking on more of the offensive responsibility for this team.

Bridges can be a great two-way player, which any team can appreciate, but perhaps the Spurs more so than others. He’s a great athlete, which should allow him to boost his steals and blocks numbers this year as well. He will have to rebound the ball a little better, as they will be a relatively undersized team with no one taller than 6-foot-9. However, that should be considered a given since he’s improved his numbers on that end each year he’s played.

Bridges is a terrific free throw shooter, especially at the collegiate level and because he’s so good at attacking the basket, he gets to the line often, which will be even more of the case this year. While he won’t be the point guard on the team, he will have the ball in his hands often and if his shooting percentages can stay in the same range while his usage rate presumably hits near the 20 percent mark, then he should definitely be considered a mid-to-late first rounder, which is believed to be his range as of now.

With more of the offense resting on his shoulders this year, Bridges will have to take better care of the ball though, as he averaged almost two turnovers a game as a secondary or even tertiary ball handler. If he can keep that number below two or even improve it then he will be in great shape. He tended to get a little careless last season with the ball and he won’t have the same safety net in the two seniors who graduated so that will be something to keep an eye on in 2017-18.

However, Bridges is still a smart player that Gregg Popovich and his staff would enjoy having on the team. He would be a solid pick, especially if Manu Ginobili actually retires this offseason and leaves the do-it-all shooting guard/small forward position open.

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