For every Paul George or Russell Westbrook (it sounds crazy now, but he was no consensus No. 4 pick at the time), there are dozens of Tyrus Thomases or Quintel Woodses or Joe Alexanders. Potential has become a rank word to describe basketball prospects. Potential so often goes unfulfilled, rotting to the high heavens as the smell intrudes upon fans nostrils and makes them cry "Bust!"
So to see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was drafted as a dynamic defender with an offense in need of development at the NBA level, pound the Hawks with 16 points in the first half in his fourth-straight game with at least 10 points and fifth of such games in the seven the team's played so far was a revelation of sorts.
The Bobcats trotted out Al Jefferson for his second effort at returning from his right ankle sprain, but his impact on the offense in the first half was minimal. The Bobcats found their offense through Kemba Walker, Josh McRoberts, Gerald Henderson and Kidd-Gilchrist, mostly.
The Hawks matched up Kyle Korver on Kidd-Gilchrist defensively early on, with Korver opting to lend Kidd-Gilchrist a few feet of space at times. Korver also wasn't afraid to leave Kidd-Gilchrist completely alone on the wing at times, occasionally helping on defense in the paint.
Charlotte exploited the mismatch often. Korver lacks the quickness and strength to defend Kidd-Gilchrist effectively, so the Bobcats ran him through screens or had Kidd-Gilchrist post him up.
Most times Kidd-Gilchrist touched the ball, it was from the triple-threat stance on the right wing just inside the three-point line. The Bobcats ran a bunch of weak side action to space the floor for when Kidd-Gilchrist isolated against Korver. Kidd-Gilchrist found success in a variety of ways as a scoring threat and in helping create shots for others.
Kidd-Gilchrist started the first quarter scoring over Paul Millsap and Korver, who had been stuck momentarily trying to go under a Jefferson screen. On his next possession, he swept the ball from his left side over his right foot from the triple-threat to drive straight at Korver with an abundance of space behind him. Korver couldn't stop Kidd-Gilchrist's drive, but Millsap came with help defense to affect the shot. Kidd-Gilchrist missed but gathered his own offensive rebound and got fouled on the second try to get sent to the free-throw line.
The Bobcats exploited Korver's space not too much later for a Kidd-Gilchrist jumper. Kemba Walker set an off-ball screen on the right wing with McRoberts handling the ball from the top of the key. Korver went under Walker's screen as Kidd-Gilchrist stepped towards McRoberts. McRoberts recognized that Korver was a mile away from his man so he dribbled towards Walker's screen to clog Korver's possible lane to run out to Kidd-Gilchrist. After a few steps, McRoberts dropped the ball off to Kidd-Gilchrist, who hit the jump shot.
Using the Horns set, Charlotte got some success on another McRoberts-to-Kidd-Gilchrist connection from the left elbow. Kidd-Gilchrist ran a direct cut to the lane from the right wing and received McRoberts' bounce pass in the middle of the lane. Korver overpursued and Kidd-Gilchrist spun to his left between him and Horford. As Horford tries to defend the shot, Kidd-Gilchrist anticipates his positioning by using a scoop shot off the backboard for the layup.
At one point the Bobcats ran another Kidd-Gilchrist isolation from the right wing. Kidd-Gilchrist drove baseline on Korver as the defense collapse on him. While under the basket surrounded by three Hawks and Jefferson on the left block, he jumped and found Jeff Taylor in the corner for a three attempt. He missed, but Kidd-Gilchrist had created an open corner three, one of the most valuable shots in the game for its efficiency and value.
The rest of the first half was much of what we already know about Kidd-Gilchrist: fast-break chances and offensive rebounds, which isn't to say they're not to be equally admired. The first half showed off Kidd-Gilchrist's offensive skill set, which we've seen before but not as effectively compressed into a single half.
And then we crashed right back to Earth for a demoralizing zero points from Kidd-Gilchrist.
Such a drastic change came about for a few reasons.
First of all, Mike Budenholzer and the Hawks weren't having that Kyle Korver defending Michael Kidd-Gilchrist crap anymore. They switched Korver onto Henderson and DeMarre Carroll onto Kidd-Gilchrist, as well as Cartier Martin when he was on the floor. Carroll is no Tony Allen, but he gave Kidd-Gilchrist less space to work with. Martin, on the other hand, is a pretty good defender.
The other major factor is that the Bobcats simply didn't get him the ball. I didn't see Kidd-Gilchrist touch the ball more than a few times in the second half, most of which came when he was behind the three-point line looking to pass. McRoberts targeted him on a cut under the basket, but it was ill-conceived as the pass was deflected out of bounds between two defenders.
Instead, the Bobcats went to work with Al Jefferson on the other side of the court. With Jefferson at work on the left side of the court, Steve Clifford had Kemba Walker as ballhandler and Gerald Henderson as the wing to be a kick-out option. Kidd-Gilchrist was left on the other side of the court for much of his time in the second half. Kidd-Gilchrist didn't do much to remedy that, either, as you could see him standing around immobile on the wing at times. The Bobcats also didn't force the Hawks into as many turnovers, which didn't help Kidd-Gilchrist find his transition game again.
It worked well, though not with the best efficiency. Jefferson had 10 points on nine attempts but with zero free throws. The bigger problem was the lethargic defense, but it's intriguing to see that the Bobcats went away from Kidd-Gilchrist completely in the second half during one of his best games. After taking 10 shots in the first half, Kidd-Gilchrist had one in the second, a desperate shot from the post off a backdoor cut as a double-team closed in on him.
As the team continues to jell with the new pieces and developing young players, hopefully there will be more balance. A 16-point game from Kidd-Gilchrist is still pretty good stretched out over one game, but one just wonders what might have happened if they went back to him.