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Kidd-Gilchrist's jumper has improved, but is it effective?

Having waited all summer to see if Charlotte's former number two draft pick had really improved his jump shot, we now have seven games of results to analyze. Has Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's jumper really improved?

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

This summer, there was barely any footage of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist taking jump shots. In today's age of 24-hour news cycles and everyone posting to Instagram or Vine, the lack of footage of MKG practicing his shot seemed surreal. Were the Hornets keeping it under wraps? If they were keeping it secret, did they have a code name for Mark Price's shot reconstruction project? Was it dubbed "Project Hitch"? And, if so, did they incorporate a picture of Will Smith somewhere in the documentation?

After waiting all summer for some sort of legitimate footage, the Hornets posted a video to Instagram that invoked some legitimate viral activity and multiple articles from various NBA bloggers. There was finally legitimate evidence that Kidd-Gilchrist had done a lot to improve the mechanics of his shot. His release was no longer on the way down. His lower body no longer contorted away from the basket. His right elbow no longer tried to form the letter "K" with his left arm prior to release. It was like watching a totally different person shoot a basketball.

mkg jumper progression2

This video of Kidd-Gilchrist practicing sparked quite a few comments on whether or not he could make that shot in game situations, and that question was answered in the first preseason game when he hit a stepback jumper against the Philadelphia 76ers. Unfortunately for Hornets fans, there has been very little coverage of the team's preseason games thus far. I've personally seen him make a jump shot live against the Orlando Magic, and I'd say it looked very similar to his other practice shots captured on camera. He was even contested, which if he'd attempted last year could have easily resulted in a block.

mkgpullupgif

The new jump shot form has stayed with him through seven preseason games thus far. That's all well and great, but it doesn't mean much if the shot isn't going in. Using ESPN.com's shot charts, let's look at how Kidd-Gilchrist has done shooting outside the paint so far.

mkgshotcharpreseason

As you can see from there being more X's than O's, Kidd-Gilchrist isn't hitting that many jumpers.  He's taken 25 of them, or about 3.5 per game, and peaked when he took five in the Hornet's last game against the Atlanta Hawks. The 36 percent mark is what you want a player to shoot from behind the arc, not 18 feet away from the basket like the majority of these shots. However, this small sample size does represent an improvement from last season, where he only shot 32.5 percent on shots between 16 feet and the 3-point line.

What conclusions can be made? At this point, the sample size is likely far too small to make any sort of bold claims about the effectiveness of Kidd-Gilchrist's new shooting mechanics. However, a few things have been obvious to even the casual observer so far this preseason.

  1. Kidd-Gilchrist is far more confident on the court this year, on both sides of the ball. Coach Steve Clifford has said as much and has attributed his new swag to the preparation he put in this offseason. Basically, more practice leads to more confidence. That makes plenty of sense. However, it appears that his confidence is stemming from the improved jump shot. Regardless of why, there's no debate that MKG is calling his own number more than ever before. Last game against Atlanta he took 15 shots, 10 of which were inside the paint. He never took more than 12 last year and he only did that once.
  2. He's taking far more jump shots per game. In 62 games last year, Kidd-Gilchrist took 93 shots outside of 10 feet but also inside the arc. That's exactly 1.5 per game. So far this preseason, he's taken 3.5 shots per game from outside the paint. It's hard to know if he'll have a green light to shoot in the regular season, but so far he's been more gunslinger than gun shy.
  3. From the free-throw line, he looks much more comfortable. Not only is Kidd-Gilchrist shooting well from the line (76.6 percent through seven games), he's also getting there much more frequently. MKG has already taken 30 free throw attempts this preseason, which equates to 4.3 per game, up from 3 per game last year. It seams reasonable that a player might avoid contact when they're afraid of going 0 for 2 at the charity stripe. However, this preseason he's looking to get to the line and has had three really impressive games there going 6-6, 6-7, and 5-6.
  4. MKG still has a long way to go on the offensive end. If Kidd-Gilchrist is 9 for 25 from outside the paint so far, that means he is only 16 for 37 within the paint, or 43 percent. That number needs to increase dramatically if he wants to be considered efficient offensively. A lot of this could be preseason rust, because per Basketball Reference he shot 59.7 percent at the rim last year (54.8% if you include shots from 3 to 10 feet). He still goes up to the rim too frequently without a plan. Luckily, his athleticism bails him out more often than not, but he could really use a few counter moves to help him improve his percentages up close.

This exercise might be way too premature, but the offensive capability of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has the potential to dramatically impact not only Charlotte's season this year, but its future as a franchise. So far, it seems safe to assume that Kidd-Gilchrist is more confident and will be more involved offensively this year. What remains to be seen is if he can be efficient in the process, all while maintaining the defensive presence that helped Charlotte make the playoffs last year. One thing's for sure, if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist starts out the season draining jump shots and the Hornets are winning, the MKG Bandwagon is going to be picking up a ton of hitch-hikers.