Is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injury prone? That's a question many are asking now that it's being accepted that he really will miss most, if not all, of the Charlotte Hornets 2015-2016 season. The problem with asking that is what it actually means if MKG does become listed as an injury prone player.
The phrase "injury prone" is something like a scarlet letter across the NBA. Players branded with it are seen by teams as someone they can't rely on entirely. Sure, their play on the court could be very effective, but how effective are they really if every season is going to involve 20 or more missed games? This kind of reputation leaks into contract talks, how the team builds with or around that player, and can even cause some teams to just pass on them all together.
Being injury prone goes so much deeper than just missing a handful of games every year, and that's why it's difficult to just flat out say that MKG is an injury prone player....but unfortunately, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is injury prone. He has never once played all 82 games in his career, and over the last two years he hasn't played more than 62 games in a single season, not including playoffs. In some ways this has to do with the way he's played over the course of his career, and others are more just unfortunate accidents. Either way, MKG is going to have that mark on him, and only time will remove it.
How can Kidd-Gilchirst shake off a scarlet letter? The easy answer is to say he stops getting injured, but that's not always possible for certain players. Luckily, MKG is not one of those players. One of the things that everybody loves about him is that he will give 100 percent every night on the floor. It's one of the characteristics about Kidd-Gilchrist that makes him a successful NBA player. Unfortunately, this trait of going as hard as he can has led to a couple of his more severe injuries, including this very hard fall last season in New York.
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Now this sounds ridiculous. How can anybody criticize a player for going hard, and giving it their all? Just know that isn't a criticism, but a concern. A player many people have compared Kidd-Gilchrist to is Gerald Wallace, or as many fans know him, "Crash". He earned that nickname by putting his body second to the play, and injuries took a large toll on his overall career while arguably shortening it. MKG needs to learn to play safer before his promising career meets a similar fate.
However, does MKG playing hard, and sometimes being injured as a result deserve him of the injury prone mark? After all, he's had other severe injuries that were beyond his control. Such as the time Jeff Taylor's knee knocked him unconscious during a game against the Houston Rockets. The argument could easily be made that Kidd-Gilchrist is not injury prone, but unlucky. After all, there was nothing he could have done to avoid tearing his labrum in Orlando during a preseason game. Does he really deserve to be considered injury prone?
Sadly, whether he deserves it or not, his history of injuries is going to stick with MKG in a negative light until he has a few healthy seasons. With this in mind, how are the Hornets going to handle this kind of reputation for a player they just gave a contract extension to? Charlotte has been building their team, and their defense in particular, under the expectation that Kidd-Gilchrist would be playing. That was no more evident than when everybody realized the lack of small forwards the Hornets had on the roster to fill the spot MKG was leaving. Can they trust their 21 year old wing to remain healthy in the future?
The Hornets need to make a decision. Do they think MKG will be healthy in the future? If the answer is yes then they just need to eat the results from this season, chalk it up to bad luck, and continue building around him. However, if there's even a slight worry that he's going to be a consistent player that misses 20 games a season then they need to find another player to build around. Kidd-Gilchrist has the potential to be a player you can design a scheme around, but that scheme can't be effective if he isn't on the floor enough to make it work.
It might not be fair to consider MKG injury prone, but luckily he has plenty of time to shake off that narrative. He's 21 years old, and will be back next year hopefully just as strong as ever. There have been many players that have been given the injury prone mark early in their careers only to shake it off, and spend the rest of their time as fully healthy players. Steph Curry and his ankle problems is one player that comes to mind.
Really though, at the end of the day, all we want is to see MKG healthy and playing on the floor. Whether he's injury prone or not, there just aren't many players out there like him, and he's a blast to watch when healthy.