There’s not a radical difference in the NBA between small and power forward. It’s not as if Miles Bridges is a football player switching from wide receiver to offensive guard.
But there is a difference. Hornets coach James Borrego would like to start Bridges at power forward next season, after Bridges started at small forward for the last 25 games of 2019. Power forward means a little less chasing around sleeker guys on defense. But as a power forward, Bridges needs to sharpen one particular skill:
It’s not the most glamorous aspect of basketball, but it’s essential to running an efficient offense. It’s about timing and angles, and when it’s done well, it leaves teammates wide open for shots. And when a screener also perfects the roll to the rim, presenting himself as a target for passes, he’s rewarded with some of the easiest scoring opportunities in the sport.
So it’s no surprise, after Sunday’s 106-96 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, what Hornets summer-league coach Ron Nored focused on regarding Bridges.
“He screen-and-rolled a little more tonight than he did the other night,” Nored said. “We really want to see more of that.”
On the rise
Bridges’ development is a big deal for the Hornets this summer. Not just because he was a lottery pick a year ago, but because with Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb leaving, someone else on this team must take on the scoring load.
Walker and Lamb combined to average 41 of the Hornets’ 111 points. Bridges can provide a lot more than the 7.5 points he averaged last season.
Sunday was encouraging: He scored 23 points on 8-of-14 from the field. More importantly, he made four of his nine 3-point attempts.
Bridges made just 32.5 percent of his 3s last season. That wasn’t unexpected; Charlotte didn’t draft the 6-foot-7 former Michigan State star for that skill.
But the way the NBA game has evolved, a starting power forward needs to make 3s, particularly along the baseline, to keep defenses from sagging into the lane and blowing up other Hornets driving or posting up. Marvin Williams, who Bridges would succeed as Charlotte’s starting power forward, has been particularly reliable with the corner 3.
Seeing how Bridges performs primarily as a power forward (he alternated between the two forward spots last season) is a priority here in Las Vegas. Bridges doesn’t see what all the fuss is about; he played different front-court positions at Michigan State, blending that second season with Jaren Jackson, now a Memphis Grizzly.
“The NBA has turned into position-less basketball, so I’m not really worried about it,” Bridges said.
What about the attention on screening?
“I definitely have to work on my screens.” Bridges agreed. “If you set a good screen, most of the time you’re going to be open.
“They want me to get myself open, and then make the right passes or get to the bucket.”
Do that, and 23-point games will morph from July into November, when it matters.