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Kentucky Basketball: Why Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Needs Another Year in College

Liz YoungbloodContributor IIIJune 24, 2016

Kentucky Basketball: Why Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Needs Another Year in College

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might just be the second-best player in the country, after his Kentucky Wildcats teammate Anthony Davis. 

    If he enters the draft, Kidd-Gilchrist will probably be a top-five pick or, at the very least, top-10.

    But Kidd-Gilchrist made headlines by telling reporters that he would not declare for the draft and instead, he'd continue playing for Kentucky. But of course, a few weeks later, the counter-rumors came out that Kidd-Gilchrist would definitely declare for the draft. 

    So what should he do? Stay or go? 

    Kidd-Gilchrist has one of the most exciting skill sets in college basketball. His passion for the game and vigor with which he approaches every possession is unrivaled. 

    But is he ready for the next level? Sometimes, players enter the draft before they are truly ready and never live up to their potential in the NBA.

    Kidd-Gilchrist is a terrific defender, rebounder and open-floor player, but his game is by no means complete. There are still a number of things he needs to work on in order to be an outstanding player. 

    If Kidd-Gilchrist decides to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season, he could become the best player in college basketball and a successful pro player.

Shooting

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    When he is on, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist appears to do everything extremely well. However, just about anyone watching him play could point out his glaring weakness: shooting.

    Most of Kidd-Gilchrist’s shots are drives to the basket, which he converts at a very high rate given the degree of difficulty. If he could add a perimeter shot to his game, he would be almost unstoppable. 

    Kidd-Gilchrist shot a very misleading 49 percent from the floor in his freshman season for the Kentucky Wildcats. It must be taken into account that the vast majority of his shot attempts were inside the paint.

    When Kidd-Gilchrist rises up to take a jumper, something just doesn’t look right. His shots are flat and his form is a little off.

    Most of the shots that he converts from outside seem to go in from sheer will on his part, not because of proper mechanics. 

    Given Kidd-Gilchrist’s intensity and how hard he works, it should not be too difficult for him to improve his form. But it would be easiest for him to do if he stayed at Kentucky one more year.

    He is familiar with the coaching staff, the team knows his strengths and he would not be struggling to learn an NBA offense and adapt to a new style of basketball.

Consistency

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can affect a game a number of ways. He is a terrific rebounder and one of the best defenders in college basketball. But yet, he can still go through periods in which he barely registers on the court.

    I personally think that when Kidd-Gilchrist disappears during games, he has simply run himself ragged and is too tired to play his game.

    He played over 30 minutes per game his freshman season and played all of those minutes at 200 percent, diving for balls and flying up and down the court. 

    But sometimes, when the Kentucky Wildcats offense would become stagnant and need a boost, Kidd-Gilchrist could not deliver. 

    He was one of the best Kentucky players at getting a key steal or converting a near-impossible layup to energize his team, but when he could not, the whole team suffered. 

    Kidd-Gilchrist must learn how to store away some of his endless energy for when he is running on empty. Maybe the answer is subbing him out of games shortly before television timeouts so he gets a more extended rest.

    Maybe the answer is giving 150 percent instead of 200 every play, but no one wants to hear that. Kidd-Gilchrist’s most important qualities are his fearlessness and energy.

    Kidd-Gilchrist must learn how to conserve his energy sooner rather than later. For his benefit, he should learn during his sophomore year of college.

    NBA games are longer than college games. And instead of guarding players like Tyshawn Taylor and John Jenkins every night, Kidd-Gilchrist will be facing off against Kevin Durant and LeBron James. That needs a completely different kind of motor that Kidd-Gilchrist must learn how to harness.

Ball-Handling

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    There is no better player in the open court than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Anytime he gets the ball on a fast break, I am 100 percent confident that he will convert a layup or get fouled. 

    The only problem is that Kidd-Gilchrist sometimes cannot find enough space to showcase his skills in a half-court set. 

    The Kentucky Wildcats admittedly struggled this year with being stagnant offensively and perhaps that effected Kidd-Gilchrist’s game. 

    At times, he seems very capable of taking his man one-on-one, getting into the lane and converting ridiculous shots.

    But he could improve in developing his ball-handling and mid-range game. Some of the time, Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot attempts are so difficult because he uses his speed to get past a defender but then cannot rely on his dribbling to get him in good position for a shot.

    If he could learn to pull up for mid-range jumpers or fake out defenders with his dribble like teammate Marquis Teague, Kidd-Gilchrist would not have to take so many hard shots.

    Perhaps when he develops a more reliable jump shot, Kidd-Gilchrist will show that he does have a mid-range game, but as of now, that is a facet of his game that is lacking.

Fouling

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    One of the only knocks on Kidd-Gilchrist’s game is that sometimes, he cannot be on the court enough because he has a tendency to get in foul trouble. 

    Kidd-Gilchrist’s energetic play often meant that he would reach in on defense, drive too hard to the basket and get called for a charge or go over the back to grab a rebound. 

    One or two of those plays a game is not a problem, but Kidd-Gilchrist sometimes lets his passion overwhelm his common sense.

    If he has picked up one foul already in a game, Kidd-Gilchrist should be aware of that and not put himself in a bad position by reaching in or being overly aggressive. 

    Especially playing on a team like the Kentucky Wildcats that was so thin and played basically six players a game, Kidd-Gilchrist needed to realize that he could not afford to get in foul trouble, even if it meant scaling back just a little on his energetic plays. 

    One more year in college, knowing the game better and getting a feel for what referees will call and what they won’t, should help Kidd-Gilchrist dramatically in this regard.

    He will no longer make silly freshman mistakes and he will be able to stay on the court longer and increase his impact on games.

Veteran Leadership

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    Let’s face it, the Kentucky Wildcats will basically be starting from square one next year. Of course, depending on Kentucky’s recruiting class, square one might be a pretty good team.

    Even so, it will need veteran leadership.

    The Wildcats would never have won an NCAA Championship this season if it weren’t for the contributions of Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb (any player who plays in a Final Four as both Lamb and Jones did as freshmen is no longer considered an underclassman in my book) and senior Darius Miller. 

    Kidd-Gilchrist could be that player for Kentucky next season.

    The only returning player in 2012 who will have played more than 10 minutes per game will be Kyle Wiltjer. I would love to be proved wrong, but I simply don’t see Wiltjer as the fiery, emotional leader type. 

    Kidd-Gilchrist stepped into a leadership role in his freshman season, so as a sophomore, he will have an even greater impact on the team. 

    He will have the respect of the incoming freshmen because of his tenacity and having won a championship. And he has already influenced many Wildcats players who will be expected to make key contributions next year. They were on the roster this year, but just did not get much playing time.

    As a sophomore, Kidd-Gilchrist will be a year older and a year wiser. He will be a great mentor to underclassmen and a much-needed leader for the Kentucky team.

I’m Selfish

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    Of course I am! Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is one of the most electrifying Kentucky Wildcats players I have ever watched. 

    From the first time I saw him play, it was clear that his work ethic and energy were head and shoulders above everyone not just on his team, but in the country.

    I love watching Kidd-Gilchrist lock down on defense and hold 20-point scorers without a basket. I love seeing that fire in his eyes when you absolutely know he is going to make a big play. 

    When Kidd-Gilchrist starts sprinting down the court with two defenders in front of him, I cannot blink for fear of missing an incredible move. 

    Kidd-Gilchrist is fun to watch simply because he cares so much and he doesn’t try to hide it. When Kentucky is up by 30 points and Kidd-Gilchrist is on the bench, he is the first player to jump up and cheer when a little-used sub makes a basket. 

    I have never seen anyone play basketball with the pure joy that Kidd-Gilchrist brings to every game. He has made this Kentucky team one of my favorites ever. 

    Getting the chance to see him play one more year in UK blue would be privilege and a delight.

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