The Phoenix Suns have gotten off to a hot start this season in the Western Conference and have quietly emerged as the top team in the West early on. With their top-level talent and deep bench, the Suns will always have a chance to win anytime they take the court, but as the West struggles to find a true title contender, Phoenix’s threat level is beginning to rise.
JJ Redick believes that Bridges could be the key to winning a title for the Suns
As always, Devin Booker has been great for the Suns to start the 2022-23 season, but with a couple of key players, such as Chris Paul and Cameron Johnson, missing time with injuries, the rest of the team has had to step up. One player who has stepped up and is putting together a really strong campaign is Mikal Bridges.
Bridges earned Defensive Player of the Year consideration last season, and while his defensive game has remained as strong as ever, he’s taken a step forward on offense for Phoenix so far this season (16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 53.4 FG%, 44.3 3P%). Bridges’ offensive development has come at a perfect time, and it’s led JJ Redick to believe that he may be the key to the Suns making a run back to the Finals this season.
“The growth of Mikal, from last year to this year, when last year he was really good, I think it makes them a title contender and certainly a Western Conference Champion contender.” - JJ Redick, The Old Man and The Three
Is Bridges the X factor to a championship run for the Suns?
Redick is right in saying that Bridges has been even better than he was last season when he emerged into arguably the league’s best three-and-d player in the league. Bridges’ scoring output and shooting efficiency from threes are up from last season, as are his rebounds and assists per game numbers. The Suns have leaned on Bridges more on offense this season, and he has delivered so far.
Whether this role will continue when guys like Paul and Johnson return from injuries remains to be seen. Paul does most of the playmaking for the Suns, and Johnson’s three-and-d reputation could take shots away from Bridges. It shouldn’t matter in the end because this will allow the offense to operate at a higher efficiency, but it begs the question of just how important Bridges is to the Suns.
Right now, it looks like he’s quite important, as he has helped the Suns deal with a couple of key absences to race up the standings in the West. Bridges will likely have to continue to play at a high level if Phoenix wants to win it all this season, but so far, he’s looked capable of doing so. And if he can, the Suns could once again become a title favorite out of the West if they aren’t already.