Nets’ Mikal Bridges Sounds Off on Suns’ Devin Booker, Chris Paul Amid Breakout

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Devin Booker #1 and Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns.

Not many people saw this coming from Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges.

His star turn since the trade deadline is the best story of the Nets’ season and comes after he received strong tutelage from Phoenix Suns stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul.

“Just trying to get to the line, just trying to be aggressive,” Bridges said via the YES Network on YouTube, after the Nets’ win over the Orlando Magic on March 26. “That’s just a big thing. Coming from Phoenix, being there, a lot of Book and C and how they draw fouls and stuff, I’ve learned a lot.”

Since the trade deadline, Bridges is 17th in the league in scoring averaging 26.8 points on 63.5% true shooting with 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 20 games. He is shooting over 41% from downtown and set a new career-high with 45 points against the Miami Heat on February 15.

He scored 44 points against Orlando on 59.1% shooting including 6-of-9 threes and hitting all 12 of his free-throw attempts.

Perhaps most importantly, he has maintained his two-way duties.

Despite facing the toughest perimeter matchups on a regular basis, Bridges is fourth among the current, healthy Nets in defended field goal differential, per

He is holding his assignments 1.0% below their normal efficiency.

Given the context – Bridges has faced a murder’s row of scorers from Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors to Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves to Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks among his most frequent matchups – that is quite an accomplishment.

“[I’ve] learned a lot from guarding the top guys, and me getting silly fouls just because they’re so smart,” said Bridges. “And they just give me an angle and let me foul them. “So just learning. But yeah, it’s an emphasis to try to be aggressive. Good things happen when you get in the paint or go to the line – just kind of opens the game up.”

Booker and Paul have both expressed high praise for the kind of player Bridges is and can be.

“Mikal’s getting the chance to play as if he was when I wasn’t out there,” Booker said in a video from Duane Rankin of AZ Central on February 14. “He can only get better from here, and I’m excited to watch it.”

Mikal Bridges Breakout Began Before Nets Trade

Bridges averaged 22.2 points on 58.9% true shooting with 4.7 assists, 4.0 rebound, and 1.3 steals in his final 15 games as a Sun, mostly with Booker sidelined.

He’s certainly made a believer out of head coach Jacque Vaughn.

“He really cares about winning, which is a great attribute,” Vaughn said in a video from Alex Koffler of Rotoballer on March 26. And so he’s trying to do whatever it takes on both ends of the floor to help us win. I think you’ve just seen his game just grow…the free-throw attempts, so that’s [an] ability to attack the rim. His three-point shooting, how many threes he’s shooting for us now. The early attack in transition, whether it’s to a pull-up or whether it’s to create for somebody else. So, the opportunity, he’s taken advantage of. We’ve put a lot on his plate. And I look forward to seeing him grow as a player.”

It sure sounds like Vaughn hopes Bridges is on the roster come next season following what is expected to be a busy offseason.

The Phoenix Suns Traded Mikal Bridges Twice

The 26-year-old swingman spent the first four-plus seasons of his career in the desert after being acquired in a draft-night trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that included guard Zhaire Smith who ended up seeing action in just 13 games across two seasons.

Interestingly, the Suns actually acquired Bridges as a future first-round pick in 2012 for Steve Nash.

They traded that pick to Philly in 2015 for Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall.

In the end, it all worked out. The Suns and Kevin Durant get one another as each side wanted since this past offseason while the Nets have a potential building block for their next iteration. It is increasingly becoming clear that Bridges is still ascending and figures to be even better if the Nets can put the proper pieces around him should they choose to go that route.

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