June 19, 2012 A Case for Drafting: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
We all know by now that the Wizards have the third pick in the draft, and as a wise spider-based superhero once said, “With great draft position comes great responsibility.” Or something along those lines. In this segment of A Case for Drafting, we finally check out Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the other player who the Wizards will hypothetically select on June 28th. Kidd-Gilchrist, the youngest but arguably most important piece on the National Championship winning Kentucky Wildcats, is the type of guy who can develop into a multifaceted NBA player. His intangibles are what make him great, though his on the court prowess is in no way scoff-worthy.
Where do you begin with a young man like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? He is such a well rounded player and individual that it’s difficult to pinpoint one exact thing that he does incredibly well. But while watching film of this guy, the one skill that’s often overlooked yet remains a crucial element to MKG’s game is his defense. Almost unarguably, Anthony Davis was the defensive catalyst behind that championship Kentucky squad, but great defensive teams consist of more than one part. If Davis is 1a, then Kidd-Gilchrist is 1b on that roster when it comes to defense. On the defensive end, MKG has not only the physical attributes (6’7 1/2 with a 6’10 wingspan), but the passion and mental will to become a prolific defender.
Often tasked with guarding the toughest perimeter players, MKG held his own nearly every contest. He possesses incredible footwork which allows him to move laterally better than almost any player I’ve seen coming out of college. MKG stays in front of the player he is guarding (be it one through four, mind you) almost always, a credit to his side to side speed. It’s a skill that takes years of refinement at the professional level in order to become as good as MKG already is at it. He’s going to be able to defend just about anyone at the next level, and that’s could potentially be his bread and butter.
MKG also has a very good instinctual blocking and stealing ability, which typically goes hand in hand with players who possess high basketball IQ’s. Kidd-Gilchrist knows when to jump in order to contest a shot, and doesn’t really bite on the pump fake moves. He was also great at swatting the shots of players who managed to penetrate into the lane. MKG is actually quick enough that he can provide help defense and switch off his man at will strictly because of his strength and quickness; he can recover whenever he needs to.
What else does MKG do well? Fills the passing lanes and rebounds. Were deflecting passes and balls a skill, MKG would have led the NCAA in that statistic. He is constantly disrupting the lane and punishing other team’s for their sloppy or late passes. His 7.4 rebounds per contest also put him in the upper echelon of perimeter rebounders. There are very few players who can grab that many boards with Anthony Davis mopping the glass, bu MKG is in a select group. He simply has a nose for the ball.
Again, all of this goes back to his team-first mentality in that MKG will do whatever it takes to win a basketball game. His work ethic is what scouts gush on and on and on about, and that same work ethic is what turns good players into great ones. Shaquille O’Neal once said (in one of his smarter moments), “Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly.” This applies to MKG in that his work ethic may very well take him to heights his natural athleticism and competitiveness can’t.
In the NBA, most top 5 picks don’t have incredibly major red flags when it comes to scoring; Kidd-Gilchrist is the exception to that rule. There basically isn’t a whole lot to like about him on the offensive end, and scouts have serious concerns about his ability to develop into a second or third (or even fourth) option at the next level.
His jump shot is weird looking, let’s just get that out of the way now. It has a hitch in it where, despite being right handed, Kidd-Gilchrist shoots the ball from the left side of his body. No, it’s not Desmond Mason shooting free throws, but it isn’t aesthetically pleasing. He also tends to kick his legs out on his jumper and fade a bit, which may further exacerbate the issue. Kidd-Gilchrist might actually already realize that his shot is bad, and it could be why he took the least amount of shots on his team at 18.6%. He can make the midrange jump shot, but not nearly consistent enough to justify using it on the offensive end anytime soon. And while he can occasionally hit the three point shot, he is not going to be good at it off the bat in the NBA. MKG needs to put hours upon hours into the gym (which he does already) in order to develop a consistent jumper.
The bulk of his offense came on back downs, put backs, and transition points (again, this speaks to his great basketball instincts) when Kentucky rushed the ball up the court. At the professional level, he is going to have a very hard time backing down more athletic, similarly sized wing players and the put backs might be limited against taller defenders. That leaves him with transition buckets and drawing contact, which doesn’t scream out “lottery pick” to me.
Another thing that you notice when watching MKG is that he isn’t a very good ball handler, and as such struggles with pull up shots and beating men off the dribble. He has yet to develop the ability to blow by a defender on his way to the rack, despite being quick and agile enough to do so. It simply isn’t pretty when he’s forced into an isolation situation, and more often than not MKG will pass the ball off after failing to get past his man. Shouldering past your opponent and rising up in the lane is something that lots of small forwards in the NBA have a natural instinct for strictly based on athleticism, and yet it’s a skill MKG is going to have to learn.
MKG and Andre Iguodala are eerily similar on the basketball court. They’re both athletes (though Andre is overwhelming in that category) who do a whole lot of the intangible things correctly on the court. Coming out of college, Iggy Pop averaged 12.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists (MKG averaged 11.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 2 APG). Both players were on teams chock full of NBA talent(Andre’s Arizona squad had Channing Frye, Luke Walton, Salim Stoudamire, Mustafa Shakur, and Hassan Adams), and as a result were asked to do things other than score in order to win games. In the NBA, it took Iguodala about two to three years in order to develop into what could be considered a third option on the floor. Despite being the second and third look throughout his career, Iguodala excels more at being a complimentary piece rather than an offensive scorer, and that’s exactly how I can see MKG panning out.
MKG’s downside isn’t really that bad. A lot of websites have Gerald Wallace as his downside, meaning he’s a guy who, through sheer will and determination, will score points and hit the boards hard. I think that’s certainly reasonable, as Wallace is a very strong defender and, while not being a major scoring threat, could still play a major part on a championship team. He’s a guy that plays basketball the right way and physically can hang in the NBA, so MKG’s downside is limited.
Why He’s a Good Fit in the District
From an offensive basketball standpoint, not necessarily all that well. Were Washington to select Kidd-Gilchrist, they’d be adding an offensively inept player to an offensively starved team. MKG won’t be a scoring threat anytime soon, so a John Wall kick out isn’t going to help out at all. That’s not to say that down the road MKG won’t turn out to be a fantastic player and fit for the Wizards, it’s just conceding that his skill set currently doesn’t work with this roster. There are enough paint scoring presences in Seraphin, Nene, Booker and Wall (he’s not scoring from outside of 8 feet too often), that adding MKG would make the team very one dimensional. I’m not sure if that’s the best idea.
He would, however, be a major addition in terms of transition scoring with his steals and speed. He and John Wall would work very well together in that regard, as they both excel at that aspect of the game. Last year, Washington was third in the league in fastbreak points at 17.9 per game, so I’m not certain that they can get a whole lot better at doing that if we’re being honest. Sacramento was the second best, so it’s not as if more transition points means more wins. It’s a crapshoot. Washington already gets out in front against people, and what they really need is scoring.
Still, MKG is a guy who would bring a winning pedigree to a losing team, and that intangible has to be taken into consideration. Kidd-Gilchrist works out and works out the right way, and if any of that rubs off on Andray Blatche or John Wall, the Wizards are going to get a whole lot better at basketball.