In any other metropolitan market in the lower 48, characteristics such as these would be the story, the whole story, and nothing but the story:
- A prototypically long 6-foot-7 frame, sturdily built with room to add on
- A wingspan that has been reported to measure over seven-feet long, with enough lateral quickness to deploy to the perimeter on defense
- A natural-looking jumper that has improved in each of three college seasons, culminating in a junior campaign in which he shot .435 on an average of six three-pointers per game
- A championship pedigree with a level-headed intelligence on the court and a desire to play on both ends of the court
Of course, Mikal Bridges also happens to be from here, regardless of where it is you consider “here” to be. Grew up in Chester County, starred at Great Valley, won a championship at Villanova, and then won another. Ardmore, Malvern, Philadelphia — call it whatever you want. It’d be a hell of a story for the headlines. More importantly for the Sixers, it’d be a hell of a pick, quite possibly the one player in this year’s draft who can step immediately into a playoff-caliber rotation and contribute on both ends of the court.
There are plenty of sexier players available in this year’s crop, guys who’ve been making porn for the draft nerds since the moment they stepped on campus last fall. Trae Young, inspiring dreams of Steph Curry. Michael Porter Jr., dominating headlines if not opposing players. That’s a good thing for the Sixers, as is the make-up of the rest of the field. The most abundant resource in the upper echelon of this year’s draft is one that they do not need. In fact, a potential run on big men might be the only reason to think they have a shot at landing Bridges.
There’s a lot that can happen between now and mid-June. The draft combine, the individual workouts, the trade market. There is still a lot of sorting out to do.
At the moment, the general consensus says that there are two marquee players: Arizona center Deandre Ayton, and Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic, a guard. Just behind them are two more big men, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson.
From there, the picture begins to muddle a bit. Texas Center Mohamed Bamba and Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. are most commonly mentioned in the five-to-eight range. Again, that is good for the Sixers, because they do not fit on this team.
What happens at No. 10 could very well be dictated by the fates of those polarizing players we mentioned earlier, the two of whom sit with Bridges at the top of potential Sixers targets.
1) Mikal Bridges, Villanova, Wing
At 6-foot-7, 210 pounds with that long wingspan, he is perfectly built to play the three. He might not have the isolation game that Jayson Tatum does, but he has a similar sort of potential to contribute to the Sixers rotation as a rookie. According to TheStepien.com, he attempted 152 three-pointers from NBA range while at Villanova and connected on an impressive 38 percent of them.
2) Trae Young, Oklahoma, Guard
You are no doubt familiar with the 6-foot-2, 180-pound dynamo and the 20.2 shots per game he averaged in his one year with the Sooners. Young shot just .326 on a mind-boggling 10.6 three-point attempts per game, but he has an excellent handle (8.1 assists per game) and has Curry-like quickness. The pace and space of the NBA game plays plays directly to his skill set. There are plenty of questions about his size, defensive fortitude, and ability to finish in traffic. But he has an elite tool with his quickness and handle and a potentially elite tool with his shot. That’s good value at No. 10.
3) Michael Porter Jr., Missouri, Wing
At 6-foot-10 with a seven-foot wing span and an ability to handle the ball, he is in many ways the physical prototype for the modern NBA. A potential match-up nightmare and a one-time potential No. 1 overall pick, he missed most of his only season at Missouri with a back injury. More than any other player, his stock could depend on the due diligence teams perform between now and the draft.
4) Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech, Guard/Wing
A tremendous athlete with serious defensive potential, there are questions about his scoring ability. He did not take a lot of shots in college, but he was an efficient shooter who knocked down 13-of-22 threes over his last 15 games.
5) Miles Bridges, Michigan State, Wing
A well-built athlete with explosive hops, he wasn’t afraid to shoot the three in college, and he connected on 38 percent of them, including plenty from NBA range. One concern is his frame. At 6-foot-6 with a reported 6-foot-9 wingspan, he does not have ideal length.
Others: A couple of shooting guards are projected to go in the No. 10-15 range, Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV, along with Alabama point guard Collin Sexton. One other intriguing player to consider: Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, a 6-foot-9 forward with wing potential and a seven-foot wingspan.