In basketball, there are stepback threes, crossovers, poster dunks, crafty layup packages, mid-range assassins, the list goes on and on of what fans admire in a player. What about the unheralded skills that fly under the radar yet impact that game just as, if not more, than the aforementioned traits listed above? Such as... cutting?
Insert the silent assassin, Mikal Bridges.
If you turn your head for a split second? Bucket. If you overhelp while guarding him? He’s already at the rim. The Phoenix Suns small forward carves up opposing defense without even touching the basketball via his elite cutting ability.
He’s always been a terrific cutter, dating back to his Villanova days. A lot of credit has to go to Jay Wright and the entire Villanova basketball program as a whole, as they breed complete basketball players from the ground up and it shows with many of their alumni and how they approach the game methodically. They play basketball “the right way”. Mikal Bridges plays basketball “the right” way.
Finishing Off Cuts
Anyone that’s watched enough Suns basketball already knows from the eye test what Mikal does on a consistent basis off the ball.
One important point I’d like to make is that cutting is also not just about getting open. It’s about what you do with the space you create whether it’s getting to the rim and finishing or making a quick decision with the defense collapsing and kicking it out to the open man for an easy look. Mikal ticks both boxes here, especially on the finishing front, as his numbers at the rim are downright ABSURD.
Shooting 81% at the rim is nearly unheard of, especially for a non-big. The small sample size mid-range + long twos make this shot chart a lot more red than it really should be.
Last season, Bridges shot 72% at the rim, which is also top tier finishing in the NBA, especially for a wing. With his wingspan, the tough finishes over and around defenders are something he’s done his entire career. The difference this season? Finishing through contact more consistently.
Tough finish for the and-one by Mikal Bridges— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) November 11, 2021
Some may call him the contortionist? pic.twitter.com/wMUVW0hPh2
Another point I’d like to make about Bridges’ cutting is that while it may not always lead to him getting the ball, it can open up lanes and space for his teammates which generates optimal spacing.
Below is a video breakdown of all of his scoring plays off of cuts this season so far, hope you enjoy it!
It’s easy to say that someone is great at something, but putting the film together along with the elite finishing numbers should clue you into why I think he’s the best cutter in the league.
He’s not only getting open looks for himself and finishing, but he’s creating space for others through his precise, well-timed cuts because the defense HAS to respect him when he makes his move off the ball.
Deandre Ayton’s “gravity” and Mikal Bridges’ “shredding” of the defense are two underrated factors when discussing why Phoenix’s offense is so potent. Yes, they have one of, if not the best backcourt in the NBA, but the complementary pieces around them are truly what makes the well-oiled machine rev.