Mikal Bridges will be starting the next chapter of his basketball career shortly. After helping lead Villanova to a second national championship in three years, Bridges will almost certainly announce soon he's declaring for the 2018 NBA draft.
Bridges has another year of eligibility remaining, but he's projected to be a lottery pick. The smart thing for Bridges to do is getting his professional career started. Last month, Jay Wright joked he'd "kick out" Bridges if he wanted to come back to school.
There's not much else for Bridges to accomplish at Villanova. He averaged just under 18 points and over five rebounds as a junior, earning the third team All-American honors. He was a first-team All-Big East selection and the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East Tournament. Above all else, Bridges is a winner. He went 103-13 the last three years at Villanova and won two Big East regular season championships, two Big East Tournaments and of course, two national championships.
The question now, what's next? He's spent his entire life in the Philadelphia area. He was born in the city and starred at nearby Great Valley High School before going to Villanova. There's a realistic chance he could stay in Philly to begin his NBA career. In addition to the Sixers' own first-round pick, which will be somewhere in the 20's, they also have the Lakers' first rounder provided it doesn't fall between the second or fifth pick. At the moment, L.A. has the best odds to receive the 10th pick, which would convey to the Sixers.
Bridges is projected to be in the mid-to-late lottery range, around 10th. The Sixers could do a lot worse than selecting Bridges with the Lakers' pick. He's NBA-ready. He'd have no trouble stepping in to the Sixers' rotation and playing a complementary role to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Bridges is an outstanding perimeter defender and has demonstrated the ability to knock down the three-point shot consistently, traits valued tremendously in today's NBA.
No less an authority on the NBA game than Kevin Durant has already called Bridges his favorite prospect in this year's draft. He's capable of making an impact on Day 1 and will be a great cultural addition to whatever NBA locker room he joins. As an added bonus, there would already be a familiar face in the Sixers' organization. Bridges' mother, Tyneeha Rivers, is the global vice president for human resources for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the company that oversees Sixers' personnel.
It would be a great story and a great fit. A player who won at a historical level in college joining an NBA team on the cusp of winning big and Bridges wouldn't have to leave his hometown to do it.