Bridge The Gap
Great Valley product Mikal Bridges works out with hometown 76ers
CAMDEN, N.J. » Truth be told, the 76ers weren’t Mikal Bridges’ favorite team growing up. Sure, the Great Valley grad and Villanova All-American went to games with his parents and grandparents, and rooted for the hometown squad as a youngster.
Yet that wasn’t the team he followed the most.
“Tracy McGrady was my favorite player so wherever he went that was my favorite team,” Bridges said. “When he was with Orlando I used to root for Orlando just strictly off of him, but I always rooted for the home team for sure.”
Bridges certainly will be singing the team’s praises if the 76ers take the Julius Erving Award winner with the 10th pick in the NBA Draft June 21 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Bridges, who played on two national championship teams at Villanova, is one of the players the 76ers are looking at for that spot, which is why they brought him to their practice facility for a workout Tuesday.
And Bridges would not mind being taken by the hometown team.
“It means a lot, just growing up in this area, going to games when I was younger. My mom, my dad, my grandparents would always take me to games,” Bridges said. “It’s really cool to see what they’ve been doing and how well coached they are, how hard they play and how talented they are. It would be the perfect fit.”
The 76ers are looking for a complimentary piece to a team that won 52 games and reached the Eastern Conference semifinals last season. Ideally, that would be a player who can shoot the 3-pointer and defend. Bridges certainly fits that mold. He’s 6-7 with a reported 7-0 wingspan and was among the better defenders in the nation during his three seasons on the Main Line. He also was one of the top 3-point shooters in the country. He ranked 18th nationally in 3-point field goal percentage (43.5) and tied for 23rd in triples made (104) while leading
the Wildcats to their second national title in three seasons.
The 76ers put Bridges through his paces during an individual workout in the afternoon. They had him put up 100 3-pointers and ran him through a series of other drills including one-on-one and fouron-four situations and liked what they saw.
“The way we play, space, pace, defend, I think he checks a lot of those boxes,” 76ers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said. “His length, his quickness, his athleticism, his ability to shoot the ball, those are all things that I thought he did (well), not only throughout his career, but today as well.”
Bridges also showed the part of his game he has worked on the most since he announced his intention to give up his final year of eligibility and turn pro nearly three months ago.
“He wasn’t relied upon a lot at Villanova to create his own shot,” Eversley said. “One of the things we saw today was that he has the ability to put it on the deck and create, not only for himself, but for others as well.”
There’s no guarantee that Bridges will be there when the 76ers pick. Several mock drafts have him going to the Knicks at No. 9. The Bulls, who pick seventh, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected eighth, are reportedly interested in Bridges. He has worked out for the Knicks and the Bulls and plans to showcase his skills for the Cavs.
There also is no guarantee that the 76ers will stand pat. With six picks, two in the first round (Nos. 10 and 26) and four in the second (Nos. 38, 39, 56 and 60) the team has a lot of options.
“It allows us to either go up and get a good player and maybe move back and get a good player,” Eversley said. “In terms of the strength of the draft I think it’s a pretty good draft from
one through 10. If we pick at 10 we’re going to get a pretty good player. If we move back to 15, I think we’re going to get somebody who’s going to come in here and have the ability to earn a roster spot and contribute.”
Bridges wants to do more than just contribute.
“I want to win,” said Bridges, the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East Tournament. “That’s the bottom line. I want to win. I want to go to a team that I fit well in and they can build me up. They can make me a better player. That’s what I look for. I want to win and I want to get better. That’s all I want to do.
“It doesn’t matter what pick I am. I just want to go to a team that I can fit and who’s going to develop me as a player. That’s my mindset. That’s how bad I want to win.”
*** The Bridges workout was the second of two predraft sessions the team held Tuesday. In the morning, the 76ers looked at guards Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech) and Marcus Foster (Creighton),
swingman Donte Ingram (Loyola Chicago) and forwards Marcus Derrickson (Georgetown), Nick King (Middle Tennessee State) and Mikyle McIntosh (Oregon).
The 6-5 Smith, who is projected to be a first-round pick, was the most impressive of that group.
“He’s got great length and he’s a terrific, terrific athlete,” Eversley said. “He didn’t shoot the ball as well throughout the year, but he came in here today and he shot it pretty well.”
That was Smith’s goal coming into the workout.
“I wanted to show my ability to shoot the ball and be able to play-maker, bring the ball up, coming off screens and making the right decisions,” Smith said.
*** The 76ers are bringing in guards Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami), Stephen Brown (Bucknell), Jevon Carter (West Virginia) and Bryant Crawford (Wake Forest), swingman Duncan Robinson (Michigan) and forward Maverick Rowan (Lakeland Magic) for a look Wednesday morning.
Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, right, drives to the basket against Georgetown’s Jamorko Pickett during a game last season. Bridges, a graduate of Great Valley High School, worked out with the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.
Villanova guard Mikal Bridges celebrates after the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship game against Michigan last April.
Villanova guard Mikal Bridges (25) shoots against Seton Hall guard Myles Cale (22) during a game last season.