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Looking back at Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's promising, yet suddenly halted return

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was very productive during his seven-game return which makes his shoulder injury quite the hard pill to swallow. The forward was on par with usual self and, moreover, showed flashes of an added three-point shot.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

It is very unlikely that we'll see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back on the court during this current season due to another torn labrum in his right shoulder.

That is quite the bummer since it will prevent the Charlotte Hornets from ever fielding a fully healthy roster this season with Al Jefferson's return still looming. Such circumstances will also disallow the franchise from seeing how good of a roster it actually has. The Hornets now only have a tiny sample size of Nicolas Batum playing alongside MKG as they have to figure out who is his future partner on the wing.

Moreover, the present situation is also something that bothers one's mind with "what could have been" scenarios. Was this 5-2 record with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back indicative of anything? How about his net rating of +15.2 (110.2 - 95.0) in seven games and 205 minutes? Or the +21.8 net rating of the starters with MKG? Was this team capable of  mucking up the seedings in between the 3rd and 6th place in the East?

One thing is for sure. No matter how much noise might be in those numbers, Kidd-Gilchrist (as always) had a positive influence on the team.

Here are not only some of the things that the Hornets will miss as a team during his downtime but also some notable positives from the Kentucky Wildcat's short time back:

MKG Shooting Threes

Him actually shooting from downtown is probably the most important aspect about his comeback. Last season MKG played 1587 minutes and somehow didn't attempt a single three the whole year. Desmond Mason and Corliss Williamson are the only other perimeter wings to have done that since 1999-00, per Basketball-Reference.

Teams obviously were still ignoring him off the ball during this short-lived comeback. Charlotte is a long way away from Mike being respected out there as the league usually takes its time before catching up with the newest shooting improvements made by certain players.

Washington was capable of closing out the game with John Wall guarding MKG. Wall would then hop in from the weak-side to yuck up spacing for Hornets' pick-and-rolls.

Kidd-Gilchrist making three threes in seven games won't cut it. There will likely have to be a 100 three-pointer season before he escapes the label of a space clogger. For all we know, he might not even get there. Moreover, some do achieve that and turn out to be unreliable when an opposing team dares them to shoot in a playoff series (case in point - Thabo Sefolosha).

However, the fact that he is comfortable with taking them and can make them is a start. Here's Chicago overloading the side of the ball on a Nicolas Batum post up and Kidd-Gilchrist punishing them with a three-pointer for rotating off of him:

That is encouraging. Hopefully, we'll see more of this during the 2016-17 season.

Pushing the Ball in Transition

Having a constant source of opportunities for easy buckets is something that can help an offensively limited player (and the team, on the whole). In MKG's case, he got off to a fine start to his season by finding said buckets. The team's offensive rating (110.2) with him on the court is evidence that he provided enough of them not to limit the Hornets.

At least for this seven-game stretch he was able to offset whatever spacing issues his presence on the court creates and reach a career-high both in points per game (12.7) and points per 36 minutes (15.6).

One of the reasons for that was Kidd-Gilchrist constantly pushing the ball in transition. MKG posted a 30.0% frequency (the percentage of times a player executes a given play type) of attacking in transition, a mark good enough for a spot in the league's top5 (unsurprisingly, Garrett Temple is first and Corey Brewer is right behind him).

Moreover, Kidd-Gilchrist ranks in the 90th percentile as the small forward produced 1.33 points per possession on transition plays.

Once the 22-year-old got the ball in the backcourt, he had his mind settled on attacking the opposition. Even the less favorable prospects of a one-on-three break didn't hurt MKG's confidence.

Some of the old problems were present as well though. He's still too reliant on his right hand and thus was suspect of turning the ball over or getting blocked at the rim (particularly when going up with his right hand on the left side). Be that as it may, his speed and strength renders him as an unstoppable locomotive on most transition drives.

Crashing the Glass

A fair amount of those transition plays start with a rebound which is self-explanatory. Players are the least ready to check their match-up right after the shot has gone up on offense. If one is a capable rebounder and attacker in transition, you have good odds of catching the opponent in a vulnerable place by attacking right after grabbing the rebound.

This is partially possible just because Kidd-Gilchrist for the fourth season in a row probably would have been the team's best influence rebounding-wise. Charlotte's 57.7 REB% (the percentage of total rebounds a team obtains while the particular player is on the court) with MKG on the court would obviously come back to earth but the overall point stays the same.

The Hornets once again rebound the best when Kidd-Gilchrist plays and rebound the worst whenever he hits the bench (at this point he barely trails the leader, Jeremy Lin, which would make for a second time he doesn't finish exactly first in one of the on/off stats but second).

It isn't only limited to defensive rebounding where coach Steve Clifford's Hornets are close to a three-peat as they are leading the league in DREB% for the third straight year. The MKG rebounding effect also applies to offense where his presence on the court turns the team, which religiously avoids chasing rebounds, into a contender for a top10 OREB% spot in the league.

He is the lone perimeter player who has Clifford's permission to chase offensive rebounds and he uses this authorization wisely. The defensive-minded forward acknowledges the value Steve Clifford puts on transition defense (and oftentimes the abilities of his assignment) and will dart right back after the battle for the rebound is lost.

Very rarely do the Hornets get hurt because of Kidd-Gilchrist searching for offensive rebounds. And he does that plenty of times. Whether it's him bodying up a smaller match-up, noticing the lack of attention by his man or just hanging around the paint while the shot is being taken, He will go after it.

The results certainly outweigh whatever the team might lose in transition. Sometimes it isn't even about MKG getting to score himself. The chaos he creates down low helps a teammate find an open gimmie.

For a team with an supposed offensive disadvantage due to the Kentucky Wildcat's lack of shooting, winning the rebounding battle (a rare achievement otherwise due to Charlotte abandoning the offensive glass) is also a source of easy points.

Again, just like with the points in transition, all of this is neat, yet it would have been interesting to see whether Mike is capable of keeping this up for a longer stretch of time. His scoring and the aforementioned transition and rebounding numbers certainly looked very good...


Well, duh... Last but not the least is Kidd-Gilchrist's body of work on defense.

It has been covered plenty of times and we all know about it well enough for me not to get into it. The New Jersey native was his own self on defense despite the long hiatus and it's the side of basketball on which he helps the Hornets the most.

P.J. Hairston will probably once again be involved and in all fairness to him - quite few people are capable of replacing Kidd-Gilchrist on that end of the court.

The isolation stars of the league can breathe a sigh of relief.