EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Fitting trade: Deal for Mikal Bridges is win-now move for Suns

Jun 21, 2018, 7:38 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2018, 4:24 pm
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)...
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns showed during the 2018 NBA Draft that when they talked the talk of being aggressive this offseason, they are going to walk the walk.

Trading the No. 16 pick and Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick from the Goran Dragic deal for the 10th overall selection Mikal Bridges shows a commitment to three things: Winning now, getting players tailor-made for today’s NBA, and most importantly, Mikal Bridges.

The pick from the Heat was arguably the Suns’ most valuable draft asset once they selected Deandre Ayton.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported earlier this month the 2021 NBA Draft could change its eligibility rules, technically meaning two draft classes could combine into one.

That’s a pick general manager Ryan McDonough himself called “extremely valuable” during the pre-draft workout process.

The Heat also lacks serious long-term pieces.

Miami’s best players — Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside — are more seasoned and the team’s only serious long-term pieces are Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. The Suns, of course, used Miami’s 2018 first rounder this year in the trade, so there’s no one notable to add to that group.

The Suns also had more picks and other assets to give up in this deal, including their own future picks and Milwaukee’s protected first-round pick.

There’s a decent chance the Suns are good in 2019, 2020 and 2021, and there’s a decent chance the Heat are not good in 2021.

Giving up the Miami pick shines through clear as day to show that Phoenix wanted Bridges, but even more so, that they want players like Bridges.

At 21 years old and 6-foot-7 with a reported 7-foot-plus wingspan, he specializes in the two things the Suns need the most: shooting and defense.

His standout performance of the season was against Gonzaga, where he was an absolute monster on both ends of the floor.

One thing you’ll notice quickly about Bridges is something your youth basketball head coach told you to do all the time. Keep your arms and hands active to disrupt the ball-handler.

Bridges also has tremendous defensive instincts, which greaten his impact on that end.

As a shooter, he’s improved dramatically into a knockdown threat. What else can you call 43.5 percent from deep on 6.0 attempts a game?

All those skills add up to a player who will play an immediate role for Phoenix next season.

Even if it’s a crowded wing group with Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren in tow, Bridges complements the Suns’ two biggest perimeter pieces perfectly.

Devin Booker’s biggest weakness is his defense. Bridges is great defensively.

Josh Jackson’s biggest weakness is his shooting. Bridges is a great shooter.

Yes, Bridges’ ceiling is lower than the guys in his range, but his value as an upside role player is blindingly obvious.

Speaking back to those earlier commitments, the move is not a commitment to Warren, who makes an average of just under $12 million over the next four seasons.

The Suns don’t make this type of trade without a real show of faith to Bridges’ role. He’s not here to be the fourth wing.

That means there are likely more trades to come, which is what we expected heading into this offseason, an offseason that was declared the most important in the franchise’s history. So far, McDonough and his staff are acting like that’s true.

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