Miles Bridges is special. It’s not a grand leap to say that, but his vertical makes special things happen. Where every minute he’s on the floor becomes must-see TV.
Bridges announced his arrival on the scene with a put-back dunk in the fourth quarter of his first preseason game in Chapel Hill against the Celtics. The moment that went down, the ceiling became more than the roof for Bridges.
Some may wonder if all Bridges can do is dunk, given his proclivity to landing on highlight reels. Bridges is electric with a clear lane, the ball in his hands and perhaps a defender in his way, but he’s a positive force for the Hornets beyond just dunking, as the Hornets have a +2.5 net rating when he’s on the floor and he’s averaging a solid, yet not spectacular 7.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Still, it is his dunking that electrifies fans and energizes his teammates in a manner that’s rarely been seen in Charlotte over the years.
Let’s look at Sunday’s game against the Pelicans, Malik Monk strips Anthony Davis and heads down the lane uncontested and instead of flushing it himself Monk passes off the backboard to a trailing Bridges.
First, let’s applaud Monk for not being selfish while at the same time willing to entertain the crowd. Secondly, take a look at fellow rookie Devonte’ Graham’s reaction as the play is about to happen. Graham rose to his feet way before anyone else did, if nothing else you have to applaud the foresight.
Let’s also look at the Nov. 6 game against the Hawks for example, you know the one where he almost put Dewayne Dedmon in the rim. Bridges shoots and misses on the perimeter, Willy Hernangomez grabs the offensive board and feeds to Bridges with an open lane and Dedmon sliding over late. The result was one of the most vicious finishes you’ll see this year with Bridges tumbling after the flush.
But the reactions to the dunk might be even better, the Hornets bench simply acts a fool. Jeremy Lamb gives a classic Jeremy Lamb reaction. (Hint: if you ever want to know if a play is good, look for Jeremy Lamb; his face tells no lies.) Kemba Walker is absolutely stunned by the entire ordeal, trying to hold his teammates back and looking like a punch drunk boxer at the same time. Meanwhile, Bridges gives the look of a young lion that’s gotten it’s first kill and doing the Vince Carter rev, while Vince Carter is on the floor.
For our final example of Bridges’ dunking ability, rewind it to Nov. 11. It’s his first game back in Michigan as a pro. Tony Parker dumps the ball to a trailing Bridges who takes off a few steps in from the foul line.
But it’s not about the play, it’s about what happens during or after the play. Notice that Pistons guard Reggie Jackson wanted no part of defending the lane there. Jackson merely takes one step in, notices who’s coming down the lane, and waits for the play to finish. Bridges is getting a reputation of finishing these plays with force (and heaven forbid you become the next Brandon Knight).
It’s clear that Bridges is coming for the rim with malice, and it’s been one of the reasons that the Hornets attract more attention this season. Bridges will add more eye-popping dunks during this rookie campaign, and now it’s about appreciating the spectacle.