Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the former number two overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, has spent the majority of his career being ridiculed in a variety of different ways, most notably, his struggles on the offensive side of the ball. However, the grass may finally be greener for MKG. After six years of struggling in the traditional small forward role under for former head coach Steve Clifford, Michael may have finally found his place in the league.
By now, all of Hornets fans should know what Kidd-Gilchrist’s strengths are. Defense is what has kept him in the league. Having someone who is able to slow down the opposing team’s best player can be key for a unit. He is also a great interior defender, and as we have seen so far this season, he can play a small ball five if needed.
The offensive side of the ball is where he struggles. Let’s face it, he will never be a threat from behind the perimeter. Throughout his tenure in the NBA, MKG has shot roughly 22% from three-point range. It’s almost impressive how someone with that shooting form has able to make it this far. However, he thrives on offense as a screener and makes a living at driving and cutting to the basket. He is also a very underrated finisher around the rim.
Early into this new season, we have seen Hornets head coach James Borrego play around with his lineups as he tries to find his ideal five. At the moment that group might include MKG at the five position. Borrego’s most used small ball lineup at the moment is Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Kidd-Gilchrist. That unit has appeared in four of seven games and has posted a net rating of 14.5 compared to the starting units 8.9. Some players are playing below their standard and while this is a small sample size, it’s definitely something to be looked at. When MKG plays alongside Willy Hernangomez (Walker, Batum and Malik Monk), the unit has a minus 22.6 rating.
While it doesn’t seem ideal to have someone who is 6’7 playing center, with the the way the NBA is moving today it almost requires it from certain teams. Most famously the Warriors have thrived off of it and the Lakers are experimenting with it. It just needs to be done. It’s almost arguable that Kidd-Gilchrist may be a better rim protector than any of Charlotte’s traditional big. So what’s the harm?
Borrego will continue to tamper with his lineups until he finds the most suitable fit (which may not come for some time), but it’s good to see things finally shaping out for MKG. Kidd-Gilchrist just turned 25 about a month ago and still has a lot of time left in his career to prove he can be a valuable role player.
We have already seen the surface of this. Kidd-Gilchrist’s assist percentage has taken a massive leap to 12.6% -the highest in his career- from 5.7% in last season. This change of positions can allow Borrego to send out his five best guys in crunch time to finish games. Right now we all have our own idea of who that five is, we just need to give it time to unfold.
All stats and information gathered prior to Wednesday’s game against the Heat.