In his brief time with the Brooklyn Nets, swingman Mikal Bridges has already endeared himself to the fanbase even if his new digs are not as spacious as his spread in Phoenix. But there is apparently another side to the 26-year-old he has yet to show.
Bridges’ response to Hart’s message would seem to convey some confusion.
Bridges, Brunson, and Hart all played together in college at Villanova. They all helped win the second National Championship in the school’s 103 seasons in 2015-16. Both Bridges and Brunson also won a second championship together two years later in 2017-18 before they joined Hart in the NBA.
Hart may have very well been referring to Bridges’ personality.
But the 26-year-old Bridges also showed another level to his game after being traded to the Nets in a package for Kevin Durant.
Bridges averaged 11.9 more points per game after being thrust into a featured scorer’s role, posting 26.1 points per game on 60.7% true shooting with 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.0 steals with the Nets.
He’s certainly gained the confidence of general manager Sean Marks.
As encouraging as it is, Bridges’ still-unrealized ceiling complicates which direction the Nets may or may not want to go in.
This group did go 13-15 after the trade deadline and was swept out of the playoffs in the first round for the second year in a row, albeit amid some extenuating circumstances that, according to Bridges, won’t be an issue with him.
Nets Warned Over Overvaluing Mikal Bridges’ Production
Not everyone was convinced by Bridges’ star turn. Former Nets assistant general manager Bobby Marks warned that viewing Bridges as a true No. 1 option on a team with championship aspirations is a fool’s errand.
Brooklyn is so high on Bridges, they are said to have no interest in trading him to the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 3 overall pick and one of Anfernee Simons or Shaedon Sharpe, according to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic.
Bridges is signed through the 2026 season on a four-year, $90.9 million contract that, given his level of production and ability, is a relative bargain.
It could be a bargain the Nets need as they look to avoid the luxury tax.
Balancing Brooklyn’s Books
The Nets hit the offseason roughly $15.5 million below the projected luxury tax line for the 2023-24 season, per Spotrac. Much of that – and more – will likely go toward retaining sharpshooting forward and Bridges cohort, Cameron Johnson.
Johnson is expected to generate plenty of interest in restricted free agency with the Houston Rockets expected to pursue him and even the Detroit Pistons considered potential suitors.
“The Detroit Pistons have both the positional need and spending power to make Brooklyn think hard about the worth of restricted free agent Cameron Johnson,” wrote Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report in an article from May 27 identifying ‘ambitious’ free agent targets for every team.”
Johnson could command a deal worth up to $90 million, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.
Both Bridges and Johnson have expressed a desire to continue playing together. It will be interesting to see just how that dynamic factors into what is ultimately a business decision.