Bridges seems to fit type of player Bulls should target in draft
Villanova's Mikal Bridges certainly seems like the Bulls' type of player, in theory.
The 6-foot-7 forward spent four years in college and is a former defensive specialist whose scoring skills improved while winning two national championships. Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson even described a player with Bridges' skills when asked what the team needed in the draft.
Bridges worked out for the Bulls on Monday at the Advocate Center, as did Duke power forward Wendell Carter Jr. in a separate workout. Bridges described his career progression at Villanova, which began with a redshirt year.
"Freshman year, I was a little too weak, I wasn't really ready," he said. "I wasn't going to play that much either. I got stronger in the weight room, just filling my body out. In that redshirt year I had a lot of tough guys to guard, so I had to learn how to play defense really well. Started using my length, lifting a lot, it gets my legs stronger so I could slide quicker and all that stuff."
With the Golden State Warriors serving as every team's blueprint for success, the Bulls could use a "dirty work" guy, someone who could be a strong perimeter defender and do many of the little things, in addition to scoring.
Bridges seems a little too thin to become a Draymond Green type of player. He does resemble ex-Bull Luol Deng in some ways because he has a long wingspan. Bridges skipped the NBA combine completely, on advice of his agent, so his official measurements weren't released by the league.
"I play hard and gritty," Bridges said. "That aggressiveness, it's that Villanova culture. That's what Coach (Jay) Wright got me to be that type of person, be that dog and killer on the court and when the ball hits the floor, whoever I'm going against, always think I'm going to be better than that person, always outwork that person."
When Villanova won the NCAA title in 2016, Bridges was a defensive-minded reserve who averaged about 20 minutes per game. When the Wildcats won again last March, he averaged 17.7 points on the season and scored 19 in the title game. He shot an impressive 43.5 percent from 3-point range last year.
Asked to make a player comparison, Bridges chose Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, forwards who didn't get a ton of hype in college and continued improving in the NBA.
"I'm going to work on everything," Bridges said. "(George and Leonard), they worked their way up and seeing how they got better every year, I see myself doing that, as I got better every year in college."
Of course, Bridges agreed with Paxson's assessment that a versatile small forward-type would fit well with the Bulls' rebuilding blocks of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. Bridges said this was his second NBA workout, after Charlotte, with New York and Philadelphia coming up.
"Most definitely, this is one team that I feel like I fit perfectly (with)," Bridges said. "Just a lot of young guys, how they run transition, how they defend."
The 6-foot-10 Carter is projected to be a top-10 pick, even though he took a bit of a back seat during his freshman year at Duke to Marvin Bagley III. One of the questions with Carter is his athleticism. He doesn't appear to be a guy who has the speed to successfully guard on the perimeter.
"As you watch these playoffs, these Finals, they're switching almost every ball screen," said Carter, who was at his first NBA team workout. "The ability for a big man to stay in front of a guard and force them to take contested twos, that's very important. And then being able to shoot, stretch the floor, is very important for a big man."
Carter said he thinks he showed the Bulls how well he can shoot the ball. Bridges admitted he didn't shoot particularly well at his workout and a team source confirmed he was telling the truth.
The Bulls have just over two weeks to sort things out with the NBA Draft set for June 21.
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