The Hornets are on the rise in the Eastern Conference, with Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks the perfect example.
With a number of key players out of the lineup, Charlotte secured a big road win behind the latest big game from Miles Bridges.
Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels are all in the health and safety protocols, leaving the Hornets shorthanded against Trae Young and the Hawks.
Fortunately for James Borrego’s squad, Bridges is in the midst of a breakout season.
Pouring in 32 points to go along with four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block, Bridges has shown he can carry an offense in stretches this season, emerging as the possible second star to the electrifying Ball.
“He stepped up huge. Made threes, got to the rim. he’s made big shots for us all year,” Borrego said postgame.
“I know Terry (Rozier) has been known for that on our team but when you look at this season, Miles has made as many big shots as anyone this season. Miles was fantastic, played with great poise out there and confidence.”
The 30-point performance was his sixth of the season, which is made even more remarkable when you consider he only had three such games across the first three seasons of his career.
Miles Bridges 30-point games:
6 — This season
3 — First 3 seasons combined
He is averaging 20.4 points and 7.3 rebounds — one of only 14 players averaging 20/7 this season. pic.twitter.com/DiNfRjPezY
— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 6, 2021
Charlotte needed every one of the 32 points in the 130-127 win, with the 23-year-old once again stamping his credentials in the early Most Improved Player conversation.
Taking the next step
Like a lot of the postseason awards, scoring can naturally take a precedent, but the across the board stat stuffing ways of Bridges leaves him in some rare company.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Bridges are the only players in the league to be averaging 20+ points, 7+ rebounds, 1+ steal and 1+ block per game.
The emergence of Bridges is the key to Charlotte’s offense going to the next level. Ranked fourth in the league for offensive efficiency, the Hornets have five players averaging at least 15 points per night, with Ball, Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre Jr. joining Bridges as Charlotte’s most frequent bucket getters.
Of course, outside of the increase in production, the nightly highlights have continued, with arguably the game’s most impressive dunker detonating with ridiculous regularity.
The only looming concern for the Hornets, is the contract status of their rising star.
In the final season of a four-year, $16.3 million contract, Bridges is in for a big time pay day. Eligible for an extension last offseason, an agreement was unable to be reached,with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reporting on The Hoop Collective podcast at the time that an offer of a four-year, $60 million was declined.
That offer may have been considered low-ball at the time, but there’s no question the Hornets are now facing a substantially larger money figure if they are to retain the services of Bridges. With a number of talented young players on the roster, those are the type of mistakes that can come back to haunt a franchise in future years.
But the contract can be pushed to the side for now at least, with the Hornets holding a 14-11 record to sit well and truly in the postseason mix.
If you somehow have missed jumping on the Hornets League Pass bandwagon, it’s not too late. Do yourself a favor and tune in to a Charlotte game, they are box office and Bridges is a big reason why.