Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injury update: MKG preparing for Tuesday return against Knicks

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is nearing his return from a hand fracture. Since his injury, the Bobcats have been playing differently. What's been going on and how might his return affect them?

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's rehab following a hand fracture early in December has gone smoothly with no visible setbacks with the goal of a Tuesday return against the New York Knicks.

As Tuesday grows near, the Bobcats could use his help in the return to the team rotation. Charlotte's defense has noticeably slipped in his absence, as well as with the injury of Jeff Taylor. Prior to Kidd-Gilchrist's injury, the Bobcats had a defensive rating (points given up per 100 possessions) of 97.9. In his absence, they've had a rating of 102.6. Their rebounding has faltered and given up more second chance points and permitted better shooting.

Kidd-Gilchrist's skills on defense -- mobility, sharp, committed understanding of how a defense works within itself, being able to read opponents, etc -- lend a lot of flexibility to Steve Clifford's defense and without their wings, Charlotte's defense has grown a little listless on that end of the floor at times recently, especially on that road trip. The defense is clearly stronger with him on the floor and the statistics back it up. The Bobcats give up about eight points more per 100 possessions without Kidd-Gilchrist than with him, equal to a field goal percentage uptick of about four percentage points from 45.8 percent to 49.7 percent.

Of course, the other side of the game isn't as neat and tidy with Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor. The spacing issues his poor shooting creates for the team hurts their offense and the team scores nearly six points more per 100 possessions with him on the bench than with him on the floor. The Bobcats have a greater deficit with Kidd-Gilchrist on the bench still than on the floor, so his defensive efforts still seem to outweigh the offensive, uh, offenses.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist does help the Bobcats get to the free throw line more often as the team has a 0.329 free throw attempt rate (ratio of free throws attempted to field goals attempted - in essence, how often they get to the charity stripe) compared to the season average of 0.309. Since his absence, the Bobcats have dropped from a 0.351 FTAr to 0.264, which hurts an already anemic Bobcats offense.

Another piece of the puzzle could be that the Bobcats are simply shooting the ball better as of late to help their offense. Charlotte's three-point shooting percentage was a miserable 29.9 percent (MKG-excluded for a baseline of how his teammates were shooting) before his injury and have since been hitting 37.9 percent. Whether Kidd-Gilchrist's spacing problems will cause detriment to this rise or whether his absence has helped their three-point shooting is certainly likely at least in some regard, but simply shooting better from behind the arc has been a major part of the Bobcats ameliorating their offensive woes.

Regardless, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's re-assimilation back into the Bobcats rotation will be something interesting, especially as the trade deadline looms (he was the subject of some trade rumors earlier this season) and the Bobcats' future position shapes up with draft slots, playoff possibilities and more.

[Statistics via NBA.com/stats]

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