Suns’ Mikal Bridges: Perimeter defenders ‘taken for granted’ for DPOY
Guarding the top perimeter threats on a nightly basis, the Phoenix Suns’ Mikal Bridges has solidified himself as a top defensive player in the NBA.
But as of Friday afternoon, Bridges holds the fourth-best odds at taking home the Defensive Player of the Year behind the Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart, the Memphis Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. and the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo, according to FanDuel. There’s also Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert lurking for the honor.
Despite Bridges’ stellar defensive effort, the position he plays puts him at a disadvantage for the award. Not since the 2015-16 season has a perimeter defender won it. Kawhi Leonard did for the second straight year, and that made him the first perimeter defender since Metta World Peace in 2004 to earn the honor. Before that? Gary Payton in 1996 was the last guard, with every winner between him and World Peace playing center.
Bridges gave his two cents on the voting discrepancy with the positions in an interview with Yahoo! Sports posted Friday.
“I would never discredit anybody, and obviously bigs have been winning that award for a while and they do a hell of a job, but the amount of times a big has won over a guard is just crazy,” Bridges said. “I think people take it for granted how tough it is to guard the top perimeter players in this league and not be able to really touch them because they’re going to get the foul call.
“I feel like as a defender on the perimeter, you just get disrespected. I’m not even talking about me personally, but I don’t understand how guards in general don’t win it. These guards are shooting off ball screens, they get isos with the offense spaced out and a lot of shooters on the court. You’ve got to guard these matchups one-on-one, and I think we just get taken for granted.”
Bridges adds that guards, the position Bridges defends most nights even though he’s technically a small forward, should be considered more for the award given the fact they have to defend the one through four spots on the perimeter any given night.
Bridges isn’t the only one making a case for a perimeter defender to win the award, with the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green praising the Suns’ defensive prowess earlier this week.
“There’s some defenders that compromises your defense in order to be good defenders,” Green said on his podcast. “Mikal Bridges don’t compromise your defense to be a good defender. Mikal Bridges has to be in the conversation and is probably deserving to be the winner of it.”
On top of being one of the team’s top defenders, Bridges has yet to miss a game in his NBA career (307 games played).
He’s also improved offensively this season, averaging 14.3 points on 53.3% shooting from the field to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 35.2 minutes per game.