On Saturday, Miles Bridges will represent the Charlotte Hornets in the AT&T Slam Dunk contest.
Whether or not the No. 12 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft has what it takes to win it all remains to be seen - he faces stiff competition in John Collins, Dennis Smith Jr. and Hamidou Diallo - but there's no doubt that he has the potential to put on a show.
At 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, Bridges is perhaps the most powerful dunker of the group. He has put it on display several times already this season, even in limited minutes off the bench.
However, the reason why Bridges' minutes have been limited compared to other first-year players is because he doesn't offer much else as a scorer at this stage of his career. According to NBA.com, more than a quarter of his made shots this season have been dunks. While he hasn't been afraid to take open 3-pointers and attack closeouts, the consistency isn't quite where it needs to be for him to get more than 18.9 minutes per game on a Hornets team competing for a spot in the playoffs.
Assuming he does continue to make strides as a shooter and playmaker - a safe bet for a player as young and talented as he is - Bridges has similar long-term potential as someone who knows what it takes to be crowned the best dunker in the NBA. Like Bridges, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon came into the league with the reputation of being a high flyer whose offensive game was very much a work in progress.
It resulted in the bulk of his baskets being assisted and over a fifth of his made shots being dunks.
Even though he still has a lot more room to grow, Gordon has improved each season he's been with the Magic, to the point where he's widely regarded as one of the brightest young stars in the league. The franchise rewarded him for his continued development in the offseason by signing him to a four-year extension worth $84 million, making him the highest-paid player on the roster.
So how do they compare statistically as rookies? Gordon was a year younger than Bridges when he was selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but the two put up almost identical per-minute numbers in their first years, with Gordon averaging 11.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 blocks per 36 minutes compared to 12.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 blocks for Bridges.
They even scored those points on similar shooting percentages. Whereas Gordon shot 44.7 percent from the field, 27.1 percent from the 3-point line and 72.1 percent from the free throw line, Bridges currently has splits of .446/.311/.729.
3-point shooting is obviously a concern for both of them, but teams can't ignore Gordon on the perimeter anymore like they used to. After shooting 28.9 percent from distance in his first three seasons, Gordon made 33.6 percent of his 3-point attempts last season and is up to 34.3 percent this season.
That's an encouraging sign for Bridges as he enters the final stretch of what has been a promising rookie season.
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