Charlotte Hornets: What to make of Miles Bridges sudden explosion?

Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /

What to make of the sudden rise of Miles Bridges and what it means for the Charlotte Hornets. 

The Charlotte Hornets were expected to be better than last season, though I’m not sure many expected this team to be one bad overtime period away from being a perfect 4-0 through the first week of the season.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly where the Hornets sit at this point in the season. While LaMelo Ball has stolen many of the early-season headlines for the franchise, there is one other player that has been turning heads thus far: Miles Bridges.

In his fourth NBA season, Bridges has made quite the leap in his game. From averaging 13 points and six rebounds a year ago, Bridges is averaging 25 points and nine rebounds this season. He’s also shooting a career-high 52 percent from the field and 36 percent shooting from 3-point range.

But what exactly is this recent surge from Bridges?

On one hand, you can make the argument that Bridges is seeing a higher usage rate so far this season due in part, at least, to the injury of Terry Rozier. Rozier was the team’s leading scorer last season and hasn’t played since the opener.

Another factor could be the departure of Devonte’ Graham. That production had to be filled somewhere in the lineup, and Bridges has more than carried the load thus far in the season.

At the same rate, it’s clear that Bridges is taking a bigger role in the team’s offense. For one, he’s averaging more minutes, shot attempts, and free throws than last year. He’s been more aggressive and it’s paying dividends.

Ball trusts Bridges and he’s emerging into one of the favorites to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year award. The quick start is encouraging both for Bridges at an individual level and for the team as a whole.

If the Hornets were going to make a jump up the Eastern Conference standings, they were going to need a player other than Ball to make a leap in their development. I’m not sure many believed it would come in the way of Bridges.

Though, perhaps that’s why the Hornets were willing to let Graham walk.

The question for the Hornets is whether this offense is sustainable. Charlotte currently has the third-ranked offense and, for the most part, has won so far this year because of their high-scoring lineup.

They’ve scored 120 points in three of their four games. Defensively, they’ve struggled. They’re ranked 21st in the league on that end of the floor. And that was on full display as they allowed 140 points to the Boston Celtics in an overtime loss.

If the Hornets are going to be a top 6 seed in the conference this season, they’re going to have to improve on the defensive end or they’re going to have to outscore opponents on a consistent basis. Quite frankly, I’m not sure the Hornets are built for that type of sustainability.

Charlotte is a talented group, but I’m not sure they can continue to outscore opponents and play lackadaisical on the other end of the floor. That doesn’t seem like a successful formula.

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Regardless, there is hope for the future in Charlotte. And it’s not just with Ball. Bridges is having the type of breakout season that changes timelines for franchises.