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Mikal Bridges and his ever-increasing offensive workload

In the wake of injuries, Bridges has brought volume that should stick around

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges is starting to look like a more fully evolved form of himself over recent stretches.

The doubters are few and far between at this point for Bridges as a defensive savant – he’s likely going to be First Team All-Defense and get some votes for Defensive Player of the Year – but he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves as an all-around key piece.

Related: Read my friend Mat Issa’s article from Tuesday on Bridges’s defense here.

With so many big time contributors on offense missing time recently, Bridges has had an opportunity to fill in those gaps.

I’ve broken up his season into three not-so-equal parts to show his growth within this season alone.

Game 1 (Oct. 20) – Game 47 (Jan. 26):

  • 12.0 points (50.4% on 9.5 FGA; 37.3% on 3.6 3PA), 2.1 assists to 0.8 turnovers in 34.3 minutes (48 games)

Game 48 (Jan. 28) – Game 63 (Mar. 4): general timeline of Cam Payne absence; start of Chris Paul absence

  • 18.0 points (60.8% on 11.6 FGA; 34.8% on 4.3 3PA), 2.8 assists to 0.7 turnovers in 36.4 minutes (16 games)

Game 64 (Mar. 6) – Game 72 (Mar. 20): since Cam Johnson’s been out; continued Paul absence

  • 18.7 points (49.6% on 14.1 FGA; 40.0% on 5.0 3PA), 2.9 assists to 1.0 turnovers in 38.9 minutes (9 games)

As further evidence to the consistency of those two final stretches, he’s tallied double digit points in each of his last 12 games, as well as in 24 of the last 25. In those 25 games, he’s taking 12.5 shots per game, up from the 9.5 over the 47 games prior.

It’s no secret that the Suns win a lot of games at 58-14 (.806 win percentage), but that tendency is even stronger when Bridges is heavily involved in scoring. When he scores at least 18 points, Phoenix is 19-3 (.864).

We all know the shot is a big calling card for Bridges – the 40.0% on 5.0 3PA over the last several games is especially pleasing to the eye – but his shot creation in the paint and at the rim is coming along nicely. Shots within 10 feet of the rim are now his most frequent shot at 38.3%, per For reference, catch-and-shoot 3s are next at 33.5% followed by pull-up 2s at 20.9%. Those shots within 10 feet are going down at the elite rate of 73.4%, higher than Deandre Ayton’s 69.3% from the same distance.

Not only is Bridges attacking this area efficiently, but it’s also just really fun to watch, and as basketball writers, we struggle sometimes to highlight just how fun these trends can be.

My favorite aspect about his creation abilities stem from how Bridges leverages his length to get around defenders and reach shot angles that wings without +7” wingspans just aren’t capable of getting to, and that was especially evident in the last game against the Kings, when he put up 27 points on 18 shots:

With just 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Suns don’t have much left to prove to anyone, but I’ll still be hoping for nights where the other offensive options are in the lineup and Bridges still asserts himself to reach those 20-point marks that he’s shown himself to be so capable of.

Two more wins locks up league-wide number one. Five more wins locks up the franchise record for best season. But all it takes is one win where Bridges stars alongside stars for me to buy into his potential to be an elite two-way star.

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