ESPN recently dropped their Top NBA Players 25 and under rankings, and two former Michigan State teammates made the cut. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges were both featured in the rankings after both players had big years for their respective clubs. Here is what ESPN had to say about the two Spartans.
No. 25 Jaren Jackson Jr.:
Fully healthy after 2020 knee surgery, Jackson has grown into the defensive force the Grizzlies imagined when they drafted him No. 4 overall in 2018. Jackson has built a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year with his ability to both protect the rim — he led the league in blocks per game and block rate — and chase smaller opponents on the perimeter at power forward.
The next step for Jackson is recapturing the offensive success he enjoyed in 2019-20, when he hit a career-high 39% of his 3s before dropping to 32% this season.
— Kevin Pelton
No. 16 Miles Bridges
Bridges has taken a leap in his development, posting career highs in points (plus-7.6 from a year ago with nine 30-point games), rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. After the All-Star break, Bridges averaged 21.2 points on 52% shooting and 40% from deep.
Per ESPN Stats & Information research, he is one of five players averaging 20 points, 50% field goal percentage and 40% 3-point percentage since the break. (The other four players are Karl-Anthony Towns, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker.) Bridges is a restricted free agent in July.
– Bobby Marks