Two putback dunks. That’s all it took for Charlotte Hornets rookie Miles Bridges to energize the Hornets fanbase and give fans something seldom seen around the Queen City: Hope.
Hornets fans weren’t enthusiastic about Miles Bridges from the outset of his drafting. The fanbase was chiefly split on Shai Gilgious-Alexander or the talented, yet injured, Michael Porter Jr. entering June’s draft. When Gilgious-Alexander was initially selected by the Hornets, some of the fanbase was sated, only to later be confused and then angry when Gilgious-Alexander was traded to the Clippers for Bridges and some 2nd round picks.
But one has to understand that for Charlotte NBA fans cheering for a rookie is never a guarantee, take a look at the history of the draft picks. Kemba Walker eventually worked out but that took three long seasons, two head coaches and the worst winning percentage in NBA history to get there.
Since then, of the draft picks still on the roster, Michael Kidd Gilchrist has underwhelmed as the 2nd pick and consolation prize in the Anthony Davis draft, Cody Zeller is serviceable yet unspectacular, Malik Monk is an enigmatic question mark and Frank Kaminsky is battling with a returning Charlotte lottery pick Bismack Biyombo for the third center spot on the team. If there’s a place where healthy draft pick skepticism should be allowed, it’s probably Charlotte.
The Hornets haven’t had gotten a significant impact from a rookie since Emeka Okafor was drafted second in 2004. While there’s been hope before, only to see it dashed by the turn of the new year, the buzz around Bridges feels a bit different. Bridges is the action figure every kid wants at Christmas with all of the flashing lights and accessories that’ll make every other kid on the block jealous.
Bridges’ energy on the court is infectious, and while the dunks have been the highlights, he’s shown off his other skills as well. His ball-handling abilities have been impressive, and are much-needed on a team that, outside of Walker and Tony Parker, lacks creativity off the dribble. He’s a capable shooter, able to help stretch the floor, fitting another need for this Hornets roster. Offensively, he seems polished as a rookie, with a varied skillset capable of producing inside and outside, on and off the ball.
Will it translate to wins on the basketball court? Time will only tell.