Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges – appearing together at a press conference following the Suns’ win over the Bucks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals – were asked to describe each other’s performances last night.
“I’ll start,” Bridges said.
Booker is the star and led Phoenix with 31 points. Bridges clearly understood whom everyone wanted to hear about and gushed about Booker’s timely shooting: “I’m amazed too. I’m running in there trying to crash, maybe get an O board. It’s going in every single time.”
The moderator then moved onto the next reporter.
“There was another part to that question,” Booker interjected.
“Let me get my love,” Bridges said. “Let me get my love, for sure.”
He deserves plenty.
One of the NBA’s top complementary players, Bridges shined last night. He scored 27 points and hounded Khris Middleton (11 points on 5-of-16 shooting).
Bridges looked ready to help a good team since his rookie year. The Suns just caught up.
He also kept improving, developing his (already-existent) off-the-dribble game to attack closeouts and perfecting his timing on cuts. After a hot shooting start on spot-up 3-pointers, Bridges flourished inside the arc yesterday.
“People will still try to label him as a 3-and-D guy,” Booker said. “And I’ve told you guys multiple times that’s not even close to his game.
“If teams want to try to make him be the one to beat them, he’ll do it.”
Bridges’ 27 points in an NBA Finals game are among the most ever by someone still on a rookie-scale contract:
What a showing for someone who will be eligible for an extension this offseason.
Two NBA draft classes have produced four rookie-scale max contract extensions:
- 2003: LeBron James (Cavaliers), Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets), Chris Bosh (Raptors), Dwyane Wade (Heat)
- 2017: Jayson Tatum (Celtics), De'Aaron Fox (Kings), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Bam Adebayo (Heat)
The 2018 draft – when Bridges was picked No. 10 by the 76ers then quickly traded to the Suns – could break that record.
Mavericks star Luka Doncic has already qualified for a super-max extension. After leading the Hawks to the conference finals, Trae Young is practically assured of getting the max. Bridges’ Phoenix teammate, Deandre Ayton – especially as the No. 1 pick – can probably command the max. Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has shown max-level talent when healthy. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has little reason to settle for less than the max.
And then there’s Bridges.
He’s not a traditional go-to star. Most salary projections have him earning a salary a little above $20 million.
But many teams could use skill set. Though Booker is correct to reject the implication Bridges is limited to 3-point shooting and defense, Bridges does bring those valuable skills. And more.
If nothing else, Bridge provided maximum value to the Suns on the biggest stage last night.