For the duration of his NBA career thus far, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been labeled as an outstanding defensive player and a core piece of Charlotte’s squad. He was drafted No. 2 overall in 2012 by the Charlotte Bobcats and quickly became a household name along with Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller.
Kidd-Gilchrist was a one-and-done at Kentucky, with good reason, and entered the NBA at only 19 years-old. He can match up with players like LeBron James and Paul George and has solidified himself as one of the better one-on-one defenders in the league.
His defensive attributes have always been well utilized by head coach Steve Clifford, a defensive minded coach. However, Kidd-Gilchrist can no longer be dubbed as an integral part of this team solely based on his defense. His offensive inability impacted the Hornets significantly this season and things must change if the Hornets want to win games with him.
Kidd-Gilchrist’s offensive struggles have been no secret throughout his career. He has averaged a mere 9 points per game with an even less impressive 7.5 field goals attempted per game in five seasons in the NBA. For a starting forward he must be taking more shots per game than seven or eight. This lack of shooting contributed heavily to the over-reliance put on Kemba Walker offensively this season.
He has worked on his offensive game and improved it significantly, adding a three-point shot to his arsenal over the past year. However, he shot .111 percent from deep and only attempted 0.1 three-point shots per game in 2016. While his jumper is not the prettiest thing to watch, his ability to hit the mid-range shot has improved as well.
Despite being an exemplary one-on-one defender Kidd-Gilchrist has only averaged 6.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game in his career. Even though his defensive effort and efficiency can be hard to track in traditional stats, those numbers are not nearly good enough to validate the $13 million he makes per year. At 6’7 he must be a more imposing presence inside the arc. While rebounds are not his priority, the Hornets have been one of the worst rebounding teams in the league in recent memory. His size and capability must be utilized better, even if it means switching defenders to increase the chance of a rebound.
Kidd-Gilchrist is excellent at driving to the basket with power and drawing a foul. Unfortunately, Kidd-Gilchrist shoots an unimpressive .712 percent from the free throw line while only averaging around three foul shots per game in his career. These stats show his exclusion from the offense, which must change going forward. He is good enough to warrant more shots in the restricted zone which could help draw more fouls and create more points in the final minutes of games.
This year was proof that the Hornets must rely on a more team-based offense rather just Nicolas Batum and Kemba Walker. This may sacrifice some of Kidd-Gilchrist’s defensive talents but a majority of Charlotte’s losses were a result of their inability to go point for point with other teams, not a breakdown on defense. He must learn to take more quality shots, which, for him, would be anything within seven feet of the rim. Coach Clifford must adapt his system to help him get these looks and integrate him into the offense.
Many people would equate Kidd-Gilchrist’s troubles on offense to his injury prone career. This past season was the first full season he played in the NBA, missing only one game due to a sore back. He only played in seven games in 2015-2016 and missed a collective 55 games in his first three seasons. This further highlights what a liability he can be for Charlotte.
He eclipsed the 20-point mark only twice this past season, displaying a strong performance in the season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks by tallying 23 points and 14 rebounds. He shot 10-18 and scored 20 points from inside the arc while going 3-3 from the line. These are the type of nights he needs to have on a consistent basis. He does not need to be the leading scorer and by no means should be a centerpiece of the offense, but he possesses an abundance of offensive tools that are being misused.
Kidd-Gilchrist enters the offseason healthy for the first time in a few years and has plenty of time to improve his shot and drive. The Hornets must make him a bigger part of the offense if they want to succeed, otherwise, he will just become another victim of the trade block in the future.
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