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2019-20 Season Preview: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

The forward enters his eighth NBA season surrounded by the same questions that have followed him throughout his career.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Sacramento Kings Kiel Maddox-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the Charlotte Hornets version of the Rorschach test. Some see a high-motor defensive stopper that every team in the league would want on their roster. Others see an inept offensive player that doesn’t make enough of an impact to warrant playing time. The truth of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is some combination of both of those things and remains the biggest enigma on the Hornets roster.

The Hornets made Kidd-Gilchrist the second overall pick of the 2012 draft after losing out on the Anthony Davis sweepstakes. It was a safe pick. MKG’s motor and defensive acumen provided a high floor as his offensive game developed. He had shown enough on the offensive end of the floor at Kentucky to inspire hope that he could become a passable offensive threat, a la Gerald Wallace or Andre Iguodala. His rookie year reaffirmed those notions, as he averaged 9.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, including a pair of 25-point 12-rebound performances early in the season. The then-Bobcats looked like they had a good one.

The problem is that he hasn’t gotten better in the six seasons since that strong rookie campaign. His stats haven’t improved nor has his overall skill set developed. The only change we’ve seen is a spike in 3-point attempts last season, but even then, he only attempted 0.7 per game. It seems like this is the player that he’s destined to be forever, but there is always that thought of “what if he learns how to shoot?” It’s not unprecedented for players to add a 3-point shot to their arsenal this late in their career, but MKG’s janky shooting form quells a lot of that optimism.

Even if he can’t shoot, MKG has found ways to help the Hornets throughout his career. He’s remarkably had a positive on/off rating every year of his career despite his severe offensive limitations. That held true last season, even though MKG was one of just three forwards to play over 1000 minutes and shoot less than one 3-point attempt per game (the others being Kyle Anderson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson).

It’s fair to wonder if that style of play is sustainable in the current NBA. 3-point attempts have risen sharply every successive season since 2010. It’s getting harder and harder to justify playing non-shooters, especially on the wings. This upcoming season is the final one on MKG’s deal, so it’s his last chance to prove to the Hornets that he’s a useful player in this perimeter oriented NBA.