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What should Suns fans expect from Mikal Bridges next season?

Bridges’ defense will continue to shine, that’s for sure.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot of young, interesting pieces on the Phoenix Suns’ roster. Deandre Ayton is a stud who has seemingly unlimited potential. Devin Booker is a scoring machine who keeps getting better. During the draft, Cameron Johnson was considered the best shooter in the draft.

The one player I want to focus on, though, is Mikal Bridges.

Bridges was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2018 draft, selected by the Philadelphia 76ers. The Suns traded for him by giving up Miami’s 2021 unprotected pick and the rights to Zhaire Smith. Bridges was considered the prototypical 3-and-D prospect, with the potential to be elite in that role.

Even considering the gluttony of wings on the team, Bridges was able to gobble up 29.5 minutes per game, sixth highest on the team. Where Bridges shined was on defense, where he more than lived up to the pre-draft hype by taking on the other team’s best offensive guard on most nights and averaging 1.5 steals per game.

So, with Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren traded, along with Kelly Oubre Jr. being re-signed, where does that leave Bridges? We won’t know which of the two will start, but both should expect a lot of playing time with the starting lineup since they’re similar. Versatility is the name of the game nowadays.

With Booker and Ayton taking most of the offensive responsibility and with Ricky Rubio facilitating, Bridges doesn’t need to grow rapidly there. It would be beneficial for him to be a better scorer, but he can slowly grow into that role which is what I’m expecting. He won’t get a lot of looks as the fourth or third option in the starting lineup but as a key rotational piece, he’ll be able to get some solid developmental reps. Bridges won’t light up the scoreboard, but his scoring ability has the chance to blossom in 2019-20 with more added usage.

The Villanova product has shown flashes last year of greatness defending. He’s been spending the offseason working in Phoenix, which is a great sign. Getting physically stronger will do wonders for Bridges as he already has a lot of great mental traits in his game. I expect that Bridges will grow a lot as a defender and take the step from above-average to possibly elite.

Bridges has a lot of positives going his way. He’s got the physical and mental gifts to be a stud wing in the NBA, especially on the defensive side. The 22-year-old’s growth is vital for the longstanding rebuild of the Suns.

With all the talented wings out in the West, Phoenix desperately needs someone to eventually reach that level. If Bridges can continue his ascent, he could be that player one day. It won’t happen overnight, but we could definitely see a lot from him next season.

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