If you were so inclined, a player’s dunking potential could be boiled down to a simple mathematic equation: (standing reach + max vertical) – 10 feet = potential to melt faces. By my face-melting formula, Miles Bridges rates out pretty well. He has an 8-foot-7.5 standing reach and although his vertical wasn’t tested at the combine there is some video evidence that it falls somewhere on the spectrum between ridiculous and redonkulous.
Bridges, taken No. 12 by the Charlotte Hornets after a draft night trade with the Clippers, had himself a nice little Summer League. He averaged 15.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He only shot 34 percent from the field but the ones he made were pretty impressive. Heck, even some of the ones he missed were pretty impressive.
There was the knife-down-the-lane-and-make-a-poster against the Raptors (made). There was also the one-handed-transition-statement-maker (also made). And then there was the behind-the-back-spin-move-self-alley-oop (unfortunately missed).
At his best, Miles Bridges can do a lot more than dunk. He probably should spend time at both forward spots, despite being a bit undersized for the 4. He is a strong rebounder and projects to be at least a respectable outside shooter. Bridges also grew a lot as a playmaker for Michigan State last season and down the road he could hypothetically do some damage as a secondary shot-creator.
But all that is in the future. Right now, Bridges is a coiled spring. He is brute force applied several feet above the ground, a poster-maker through and through. And, honestly, that may be as important to the Hornets as solid defense and offensive efficiency.
For most NBA rookies, year one is a slog through national obscurity. The ones who break through are either on the early bus to elite production, or they pop because of endlessly looped highlights on SportsCenter and social media. John Collins was more than solid last year for the Atlanta Hawks but chances are most fans only know him from the one or two times they saw a clip of him ending some hapless rim protector.
Bridges has that kind of potential — we’re probably going to hear about him a lot more this season than the totality of his production would suggest, because he’s going regularly going to be leaping over and through people. He has the physical tools to dunk on anyone and the blind combination of anger and self-confidence to actually try to.
The Hornets went into this summer with a few big needs. They needed to get rid of Dwight Howard. They needed to get healthy, rebuild their depth, find some additional offensive creators to support Kemba Walker, all without sacrificing their defense. But most of all, they just needed something to feel good about. Last year was another season of disappointment, their coach spent time away from the team dealing with health issues and then was replaced at the end of the season. Walker was featured heavily in trade rumors despite his frequently expressed desire to stay in Charlotte. They missed the playoffs, again.
Bridges’ shooting, defense and playmaking is what matters most for his ceiling, but his dunks, his physicality and his swagger (the part of his brain that tells him a self-alley-oop is a good idea when he currently has his back to the basket) have the potential to make the Hornets exciting. They have the chance to breathe life into what has been a moribund basketball team teetering on the edge of Eastern Conference irrelevancy.
It would be nice if the Hornets could make the playoffs this season but it would be even better if they could just not so strongly resemble a slowly deflating balloon. That’s where Miles Bridges comes in.