Mikal Bridges is not in college anymore.
After four weeks of play in the NBA, Bridges, selected 10th overall in the draft, is competing with basketball artists and experts now.
Entering the league with two college National Championships, Bridges has noticed the different level of play. One of the biggest differences is the depth of talent on each team.
“The worst player on the team is really talented and in college, the worst player may still be good but not as talented as guys in the NBA,” he said. “Also, The speed and physicality are different.”
It all began for Bridges with the draft.
“Being there with my family and hearing my name get called, it was a crazy experience,” said Bridges.
Bridges had the chance to play for his hometown for almost 30 minutes before the Sixers traded him, who drafted him, traded him. The Sixers sent Bridges to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for their 13th overall pick, Zhaire Smith, out of Texas Tech. The trade did not effect Bridges because he was just blessed to make it to the league.
“It didn’t hit me until days after, but in that moment walking up on big stage, it was truly a blessing for sure,” he said.
The new NBA lifestyle has been good to him so far. Traveling and training almost every night for a game can take a toll on someone, despite how good they are.
Bridges is learning how to adapt to it as the season progresses.
“You have more free time,” Bridges said. “In college, you get backed up with classes and everything. Now it’s just basketball. Having free time is key to recovery.”
There are not as many games in college, he said, and you get to work out more.
“You play so many games now. In college, you play a good amount of games but certain days you go in and work out a lot. We still get our workouts in during the season, which may be lighter,” he said. “Mainly in the offseason, those are when the harder workouts come out.”
Bridges may not win Rookie of the Year, but he’s performing at the NBA level.
He has shown his ability to catch and shoot from the farther NBA 3-point line and has scored double-digit points in four games during his first four weeks. Bridges is averaging 7 points per game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc.
Bridges loves playing on the same team as DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker.
“They are both very talented players,” he said. “DeAndre is really good at a young age so that always helps. Devin Booker is an unbelievable shooter and bucket getter. He makes my job easier because how good he is offensively by getting the defense to lock in on him. He’s also a really good passer.”
Fantastic look from Devin Booker to Mikal Bridges who just continues to prove that he deserves more and more minutes for the Suns.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) November 5, 2018
Last year, Bridges was still attending Villanova as a senior on the court.
He played alongside his fellow teammates Eric Pascall, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, and Jalen Brunson. Pascall and Booth still continue to play for Villanova. Divincenzo and Brunson were drafted in the NBA with Bridges, who said he tries his best to keep in touch with them.
“I talk to E and Phil almost every day to make sure they are getting ready for their season,” he said. “If I know we play Milwaukee with Donte on their team or the Mavericks with Jalen, or if they have a good game one night, I’ll hit them up and talk to them.”
With the help of Devin Booker facilitating the offense and finding the open man, Bridges has improved his shooting enough to be a guy Booker can trust knocking it down from the outside.
Bridges’ 6-foot-7 inches makes him the average height of a small forward in the NBA. It helps him when guarding other guys his size, like DeMar DeRozan, when it comes to one-on-one matchups.
Coming into the league at 22, Mikal has much more to learn and adapt to as his rookie season goes on and for the rest of his NBA career.