Assessing Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Kerem Kanter

January 27, 2018

By Alan Lu

Recently, I decided to take the time to watch Mikal Bridges play in a Big East game that was played between Villanova and Xavier on January 10th, with thanks to YouTube via College Sports.  Even though Villanova would go on to rout Xavier to win by double digits, I wanted to get a closer look at Mikal Bridges’ skill set to see why he his draft stock has risen so rapidly this year.  So as we look back, here is how he fared in this game, as well as how other various prospects did on this day.

Villanova’s junior swingman, Mikal Bridges had a solid showing in his team’s win over Xavier.  He shot the ball well as he excelled as a scorer, and he played a very good all-around game to help get his team the victory.  Bridges showed a very good ability to knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  He can make quick spot-up threes off the catch, and Bridges can swiftly move to open areas to get the basketball, as he moves well without the ball on offense.  He also was able to make a pull-up, mid-range shot in this game, but sometimes Bridges can miss open threes, as he can be streaky with his jump shot.

He also did an adequate job of getting scores off the dribble.  Bridges was able to drive off of a screen to throw down a magnetic jam to get a score around the basket, but there was another time where he missed on a runner after looking to score from the high post.  When posting up, Bridges managed to use a pump fake move to draw free throws on a running jump hook.

Plus, he also displayed solid playmaking skills.  Bridges is an unselfish player that can make an assortment of passes to set up numerous scores for his teammates, and he also can bring the ball up on occasion.  He was able to get several assists in this game, but he did commit one turnover, though.  On one play, he dribbled off of a screen, but he threw a pass out of bounds, as that was perhaps due to miscommunication.  Also, Bridges did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  He would frequently leap up to haul in defensive boards due to possessing a strong blend of having length, athleticism, motor, and instincts to do so.

He also played solid defense.  Bridges was able to force a passing turnover after using his length to tightly guard against an entry pass, and he also poked a ball away on an opponent’s pump fake to help his team get another steal on the defensive end.  Plus, he was able to stay in front of his man on a drive to force a miss, and he also contested a three to force another miss.  However, there was one time where he misplayed a crosscourt as he tried to leap up to intercept the pass but missed, and this led him to giving his man too much space to shoot the three-point shot, as he ended up allowing the score that time.  On a separate play, he got beat off the dribble, and ended up giving up too much space, as this led him to allow a score on a drive to the hoop.

In general, Mikal Bridges had a solid all-around game, as he was able to help his team in a variety of ways to get his team a double-digit victory over Xavier.  He has noticeably improved his ability to shoot the basketball over the years, and he is also an unselfish player that can play strong defense when he is on the floor.  With his skill set, he could end up being a good pick for an NBA team in the mid first round range of the upcoming draft.

Villanova’s 6-2 junior point guard, Jalen Brunson played very well, as he had a strong all-around game to help lead his team to a win over Xavier.  Brunson did a very good job of getting scores off the dribble.  He possesses a solid first step to get past his man, and he can use ball-handling moves to help get him scores on the floor.  Brunson managed to use a quick crossover move to score once, and he also managed to score on a turnaround jumper.   He can draw plenty of fouls upon his opponents, and he also changes speeds well. 

He also was able to score on a dunk off of a drive in transition.  But sometimes, he would miss shots on the break despite using nifty Euro-step moves, as he played too fast to miss once, and he also had his shot blocked on a separate offensive possession.  Also, Brunson did a good job of scoring in the post, as he managed to score on a fadeaway, turnaround jumper.

He also showed off a decent ability to knock down threes to space the floor for his team.  Brunson was able to make a pull-up three after dribbling off of a screen, and he also made an open three on the break, but he can be streaky with his shot sometimes, as he also ended up missing several three-point shots off the catch.

Plus, he also displayed gifted playmaking skills against Xavier.  Brunson is an agile playmaker that handles the ball well, and he possesses solid court vision, as he can get the ball to shooters to set up many scores for his team.  He also managed to use a crossover on a quick drive to the hoop before throwing an accurate interior pass to a teammate. 

In addition, Brunson managed to set an on-ball screen that helped set up a score for Bridges on a drive to the hoop.  Brunson did a very good job of distributing the basketball in this game, but there was one play where he threw an entry pass that ended up getting tipped and intercepted.  Brunson did not grab many rebounds in this game, but he was able to get a couple of defensive boards, as he would push the ball up the floor afterwards.

He also played solid defense.  Brunson managed to rip a ball away from an opponent on a drive to get a steal, and he would heap on loose balls to help his team come away with others.  He would stay with his man on a drive to force misses and turnovers, and he was able to draw a charge once.  He also would actively fight through screens and contest jumpers to force misses, but sometimes, he would be late to rotate, as his team would end up scoring on drives to the hoop, and there was another time where he ended up committing a foul on one play.

In general, Jalen Brunson had a very good showing in his team’s win over Xavier.  He is a quick, shifty playmaker that can score the basketball in many different ways, and he also is a solid distributor when he is on the floor.  With his skill set, he could end up being a good value pick for an NBA team late in the first round of the upcoming draft.

Xavier’s 6-10 senior big man, Kerem Kanter had a terrific showing in his team’s loss to Villanova.  He consistently excelled as a low post scorer when he was on the floor, and he looked to have the best game among all of the Musketeers’ players in this game.  Kanter did a great job of scoring in the post.  He was often able to score on turnaround jump hooks and on step-through moves after frequently backing his man down to use pivot moves, and Kanter possesses solid footwork, strength, and shooting touch to get numerous scores down low.

He also managed to utilize a jab step when hoisting up a three-point shot, and he managed to get three free throws after being fouled that time.  Also, he showed off good playmaking skills.  Kanter is a good passer that can throw accurate passes from the post to find the open man, and he was able to hit the cutter once after being doubled on the block.  He also managed to bring the ball up once off of a defensive board, but he was called for committing a charging foul late in the game after running the floor to get the ball.

He also did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball.  Kanter hauled in plenty of defensive boards when he was on the floor, and he also was able to get an offensive rebound.  However, he did not play very good defense in this game.  For the positives, Kanter was able to contest a shot in the post, as well as out on the three-point line to force misses.  However, he would be late on his rotations, as he would allow opponents to score on jumpers and drives, and he would tend to give up too much space to his man on the defensive end.

In general, Kerem Kanter excelled as a scorer when he was on the floor, and he also did a good job of passing out of the post to help his team on offense.  He is a skilled big man that can get numerous buckets for his team in the post, and he could likely end up being a solid addition to an NBA team’s summer league roster.

Xavier’s 6-6 senior swingman, Trevon Bluiett did not have a great game, but he did make some good plays when he was on the court.  He was able to score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he also passed the ball well against Villanova.  Bluiett did an adequate job of getting scores off the dribble.  He has a solid first step to the hoop, and he can score on strong drives to the basket.  On one play, he used a jab step to score on a contorted jumper, and he also managed to draw an extra free throw.  Plus, he also was able to go coast to coast on a drive to score on a runner in transition.  He can use ball-handling moves to get past opponents, but every once in a while, he may play too fast, which can lead him to miss shots in the paint.

He also showed a decent ability to knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  Bluiett made a couple of threes in this game, as he made a quick spot-up three from NBA distance, and he also made a pull-up three in transition.  However, he missed plenty of other three-point shots, and he tended to try to hoist up threes from well beyond the arc.  He also missed both of his mid-range shots off the dribble.

Plus, he also showed off fairly good playmaking skills.  Bluiett is an unselfish player that can throw quick entry passes to his teammates, and he also can quickly bring the ball up.  But he did throw one crosscourt pass that ended up getting tipped and intercepted, as that resulted in him committing his lone turnover in this contest.  Also, Bluiett was able to get his fair share of rebounds when he was on the floor, as he would look to get defensive boards, and sometimes, he would bring the ball up the court afterwards.

In addition, he also played fairly average defense.  Bluiett would contest jumpers to force misses, and he also held his ground when defending the post to force a miss against a taller player.  However, he had some trouble defending opponents on drives to the basket.  On some plays, he would struggle to stay in front of his man, and he would give up too much space to his opponent.  He also would give up too much space to opponents when defending threes, as that would also cause him to allow scores to the opposition.

In general, though this was not Trevon Bluiett’s best game, he showed off some range when he made threes, as well as a good ability to both score off the dribble and pass the basketball.  He is an intriguing prospect that can help a team offensively, and he could end up being a good pick for an NBA team in the second round range of the upcoming draft.

Xavier’s 6-5 senior guard, J.P. Macura did not play very well, as he struggled to shoot the basketball, he was turnover prone, and he also struggled with his position defense against Villanova, but for the positives, Macura showed a fairly good ability to score on half-court drives to the hoop, and he also passes the ball well when he plays patiently.   He would push the ball up the floor after grabbing defensive boards, and he also made one impressive block on a shot on a drive in transition to get a stop for his team.  While he generally did not play well on this day, Macura is a skilled basketball player that could be a solid addition to an NBA team’s summer league roster.

Others:

Xavier’s 6-7 freshman forward, Naji Marshall played very well in his team’s loss to Villanova.  He is a very athletic basketball player that was able to throw down multiple thunderous dunks on offense, as he elevated to do so off of a cut, and he also ran the floor to score a couple of times in transition.  Marshall also excelled at getting scores on aggressive drives to the hoop.   He had a really good showing in this game, and Marshall could definitely be a prospect to watch in the future.

Villanova’s 6-3 junior combo guard, Phil Booth shot the ball really well, as he did a great job of knocking down open threes off the catch to take advantage of Xavier’s 1-3-1 zone defense, and he often made shots to space the floor for his team.   Booth was very efficient as a scorer as he would score on patient drives, and he also threw down an emphatic two-handed dunk on a fast break drive.

He also played unselfishly, as he threw an accurate lob pass to set up a score for a teammate on the break on a give and go.  Plus, Booth played very good defense, as he would quickly jump passes to get steals, and he also roamed to poke a ball away off of a drive to collect another.  In general, Booth played very well in this game, and he is an athletic, skilled basketball player that could project into filling a microwave type of scorer role at the next level.

Villanova’s 6-9 junior big man, Eric Paschall also played very well in his team’s win over Xavier.  He made shots in a variety of ways, as he excelled at knocking down jumpers off the catch, and he even made a spot-up three after running off of a curl.  Plus, he excelled at scoring on drives to the hoop, and he also scored on an alley-oop dunk on a give and go on the break.  Paschall did struggle with his position defense at times, as he particularly struggled toguard shooters, but on offense, Paschall played very well, and he could be a player to watch in 2019.

Donte DiVincenzo had an up and down game, but he was able to make enough plays to help Villanova get the win.  He struggled to knock down jumpers, but he excelled at scoring on drives to the basket.  Also, he showed a decent ability to kick it to shooters off the dribble.  He did tend to throw inaccurate passes however, as a couple of his passes ended up getting intercepted, and another pass was dropped by a teammate.

DiVincenzo did a good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would come away with plenty of boards on both ends of the floor due to possessing a very good motor.  However, he would also commit over the back fouls when going for boards.  He also played good defense, as he would contest jumpers to force misses, and he was able to get a couple of steals for his team.  But sometimes, he would struggle to keep up with his man defensively, as that would lead him to occasionally commit fouls and allow scores.

Villanova’s redshirt freshman center, Omari Spellman did not play very well in his team’s win, as he had trouble making shots consistently and he also struggled with his position defense.  He was able to do an adequate job of getting scores in the post as he was able to make a quick turnaround jump hook, and he possesses good footwork, strength, and shooting touch.   He also was able to make a quick, turnaround jumper from the mid-range area. However, he was unable to make any of his three-point shots from beyond the arc.  For the positives, Spellman would set numerous screens for his team on offense, both on and off the ball, and he also came away with plenty of defensive rebounds.

However, he played average defense at best.  On one hand, Spellman showed a good ability to block shots to protect the paint, as he showed above average athleticism and leaping ability, as well as good instincts and timing to do so.  He would also contest jumpers to force misses, and he generally would defend drives well, as he can even defend out on the perimeter.

He had trouble guarding Kerem Kanter when defending in the post, as he would tend to get backed down, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores down low.  Sometimes, he would get beat on step through moves, and other times, he would not hold his ground when defending in the paint.  Other times, he would be late in his rotations, which would cause him to allow scores around the basket.

In general, Omari Spellman did not play a very good game, but he’s a skilled center that can effectively space the floor when he is knocking down jump shots.  Right now, he may be a bubble second round candidate, but he could move up draft boards swiftly if he can be more consistently productive in games.

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