Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is primed and ready to be an NBA star, and next season might be his best chance to show that. The Charlotte Hornets offseason has been set up perfectly to allow MKG to step into the spotlight, take over as the face of the franchise, and lead the team back into the playoffs as the clear best player on the team. He got the contract, the front office gave him the shooters, and now he needs to come out and show just how good he is.
Lets start with the obvious. Kidd-Gilchrist is a monster on the defensive end, and is probably the second best perimeter defender in the NBA behind Kawhi Leonard. There aren't many players that can anchor a defense from the perimeter, but those two can. Some might go so far as to call Kidd-Gilchrist a better defender than Leonard, and that's honestly an argument worth making. After all, Leonard had terrific interior defenders like Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter behind him. MKG on the other hand had Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller on the interior making what he did that much more difficult. Leonard is able to gamble on steals, while Kidd-Gilchrist has to make sure his man stays in front of him. Their games differ in this way, but they're both so important to turning an average or good defense into a great one.
MKG in particular is the sole reason the Hornets even rank as a top 10 defense, or found themselves in the race for the playoffs last season. The Hornets were always worse when MKG wasn't on the floor whether he was out injured, or just sitting on the bench resting. When off the floor, the Hornets defensive rating was a poor 104.1, and when he was on the floor it was an incredible 96.3. The most incredible part however was that MKG wasn't just an improvement on defense, but offense as well. The Hornets offensive rating improves from 96.1 to 99.4 when he's on the floor. Considering how awful Charlotte was on offense, last season, it's hard to ignore that any improvement is a great thing for Charlotte.
Of course, none of this matters if the Hornets can't win games, and MKG had plenty of impact in that department as well. Without Kidd-Gilchrist, the Hornets were 6-21, and with him they were 26-27, which is a major and obvious improvement.
So Kidd-Gilchrist is clearly a very good player, and someone that has an impact. The biggest question about his game however is how much better can he get on offense. Everybody talks about the often criticized jumpshot, but he really is improving in that category.
It might look funky, and it might still be a work in progress, but Kidd-Gilchrist is clearly improving as a shooter. He managed to turn the 10 to 16 feet range into an efficient shot, and he mad ea significant jump from just inside the 3-point line going from 30 percent the year before to 37 percent in his most recent season. The most telling part of this chart however is his 3-point shots from last year. It's been mentioned a thousand times, and it's time to mention it again, but Kidd-Gilchrist didn't attempt a single 3-point shot last year. This will raise debate over his ability as a shooter, and how he'll fit in an NBA that's making the 3-pointer more valuable than ever, but really it just shows how smart a player he is.
Kidd-Gilchrist couldn't make 3-pointers yet last season. That's just the way it was, and the criticism about him not taking any shots from that range feels silly and unnecessary. Yes, it's an issue if he doesn't ever develop it, but when talking about last season it's really not a huge issue, because he would have been missing those shots. Should MKG really be taking shots that he's going to miss anyways, or should he be working on getting into range, and taking shots he knows he can make? He plays smart and knows his limits as a shooter. That's an undervalued skill, and it's part of why Kidd-Gilchrist is ready to breakout and be a star.
Right now, the Hornets have a player that is already one of the two best perimeter defenders in the NBA, that makes them better across all facets of the game, and he hasn't even been allowed to legally drink for an entire year. His athleticism is absolutely insane, he's only shot below 60 percent at the rim once, and that was last year when he shot 57 percent, but most importantly is that MKG has improved every year he's been in the NBA. This guy has all of the talent in the world, and it looks as if the only thing holding him back is a jumpshot that's continuing to get better. He'll be 22 going into this season, and there's no reason to think he won't get better. In fact, this year could very well be the season he breaks out. The only thing holding him back is a jumpshot, and if that becomes enough of a weapon to where the defense has to focus on him, then there's nothing that can stop MKG from becoming a true star in this league.