Charlotte Hornets: Consistent improvement is the key for Miles Bridges

As the Charlotte Hornets prepare to face the Magic on Monday, Miles Bridges comes in on the best three-game streak of his career.

When the Charlotte Hornets take the floor on Monday night, forward Miles Bridges will be looking to build off of what has become one of the best few games of his career. Over the team’s past three games, Bridges has scored a team-high 63 points, and marks his best three-game stint at this point in his young NBA career. The problem with Bridges, who is just 21 years old, is that he isn’t always consistent. If he can continue to improve and produce at a steady rate, he could be a valuable piece for the Hornets for years to come.

Assuming Bridges can improve upon his three-point shooting, he has the potential to become a dangerous NBA scorer.

As a rookie last year, Bridges struggled from the three-point line, making just 32% of his attempts. Prior to the start of this season, he made it clear that perimeter shooting would be a key focus for him moving forward. In fact, he said his goal was to shoot better than 38% this year. While he hasn’t quite hit that mark–he’s currently making 35% of his threes–he has shown improvement. Bridges has never been a prolific shooter, and coming into the league it was something he needed to improve upon. Fortunately for him and the Hornets, he has, albeit slowly, continued to do so.

If the second-year forward can become a viable threat from beyond the arc, it could truly open up the rest of his game. Bridges has displayed his elite athleticism on multiple occasions throughout his early professional career; however, when he isn’t making threes, he’s much easier to keep out of the paint, and thus out of the scoring column. In games where he has made at least two threes this season, he’s averaging 17.0 points per game.

In games where he doesn’t, he’s averaging only 8.5 points per game, and has yet to score more than 15 points. It’s also worth noting that his overall shooting percentage is considerably higher when he is hitting from deep. Making threes is something Bridges is still getting better at–and he truly is getting better–so as he continues to knockdown more and more shots from behind the line, it’s going to open up the inside, giving him the potential to become a scoring threat from anywhere on the court.

Defense is another area where Bridges must improve going forward in order to succeed at the professional level.

Coming into the league, most draft analysts figured Bridges would be best suited at power forward in the NBA. During his rookie year, he played the position a fair amount. This season, with the arrival and emergence of PJ Washington, Bridges has almost exclusively played the three-spot. Because of that, he has often been called upon to guard opposing teams’ small forwards, and a lot of times, that player tends to be one of the opponent’s better scorers. As a result, Bridges has sometimes been exposed on the defensive end. In fact, he has given up more field goals than any other player on Charlotte’s roster, and is currently allowing the third-best opponent shooting percentage of any Hornets defender.

Some of his defensive troubles are due in part to his lack of size and length on the outside. Because of that, he sometimes has difficulty defending the perimeter. Other times, Bridges–as well as a few other teammates–simply look confused on that end of the floor. Now, he can’t change anything about his size; however, what he can get better at is his feel for the game. Experience is the best way to learn and grow on defense, and lining up against the other team’s best player is about as good an experience as you can get. With that being said, though, it’s also on the coaching staff to help him get better. Unfortunately for the Hornets as a whole, defense hasn’t seemed to be much of a priority this season.

The bottom line is that in order for Miles Bridges to become a complete NBA player, he’s going to have to improve his defense. He has shown flashes this season, and at times he’s been really good at the defensive end, but other times he simply hasn’t. Just as the case is on offense, Charlotte needs the former first-round pick to be a consistently reliable option at the other end of the floor. Keep in mind he’s just 21, and has loads of athleticism and potential. For his sake and the Hornets’ sake, let’s all hope he continues to grow as a scorer and defender, and he could be in Charlotte for a long time to come.