Could a breakout season for Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges be on the horizon? That is what one analyst predicted in a Southeast Division season preview article appearing on The Athletic (subscription required).
When posed with the question, “Which Southeast player is most likely to have a breakout season? “, senior columnist David Aldridge decided to select Bridges.
"“Bridges was on the cusp of stardom before serving what was a de facto season-long suspension, coming off a 20-point, 7-rebound campaign in 2021-22. As he’ll certainly be looking to recoup the lost money from not playing last season, along with first-round pick Brandon Miller demanding opponents’ defensive attention, and with a healthy Ball again tossing dimes, Bridges could put up big numbers.”"
Bridges did not appear in a single game last season and will miss the first 10 games of the upcoming season. The last time the NBA saw Bridges on the court, he averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 35.5 minutes per game during the 2021-22 season in which he appeared in 80 of 82 games.
There is a very good chance that Bridges, at just 25 years old, can pick up where he left off from his last real NBA action. Bridges is a very talented player who should be able to help the Hornets be a much better team this season. Playing alongside the likes of LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Brandon Miller, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, and Mark Williams should lead to positive results for Bridges more often than not this season.
But there is also an equal, or perhaps even greater chance, that there is a ton of rust, resulting in it being a struggle to get back to where he was prior. A player can practice and train all they want while away from a team, but there is no true substitute for genuine NBA action. It would not be a surprise if it takes a little bit of time for Bridges to become reacclimated to the league, with less-than-stellar numbers following him along the way.
Should the latter, and not the former take place, it is important not to panic. Bridges has been away from actual professional basketball for an extended period, and that would impact 99.9% of players. It is about how he performs in the context of the entire season, not just the first handful of games. A breakout for Bridges is certainly possible, but it is going to require some patience for it to truly come to fruition.