Two of the most talented players in the upcoming NBA draft are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky and Harrison Barnes of UNC.
Both are 6'8", 210-pound small forwards with a variety skills who are projected to be drafted in the top 10 by ESPN’s Chad Ford. Kidd-Gilchrist is only 18 years old, and Barnes is 19. Several things could affect their draft stock between now and June 28, but wherever these two land, expectations will be high.
Many of the same teams will be pursuing these two, or even choosing between them. This article evaluates them based on five categories—athleticism, defense, scoring, intangibles and potential at the next level. Each player will be scored out of 10 points for each category, then those scores will be added up to create a total score out of 50.
Barnes: 8.5. Barnes moves well for his size, but he is not exceptionally quick off the dribble nor does he posses elite speed or jumping ability.
MGK: 10. Kidd-Gilchrist has incredible leaping ability and excellent athleticism for his size. He is quick off the dribble and can attack the basket, and effectively uses his jumping and timing to get a lot offensive rebounds and put-backs—he grabbed 2.6 offensive rebounds per game last season, according to statsheet.com.
Barnes: 8.5. Barnes is fairly athletic and uses his length to defend well on the perimeter. He grabbed 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game last year, and if he matures physically he could see significant improvement on defense.
MGK: 9. Kidd-Gilchrist impacts the game in a number of ways from the defensive end. Last season he averaged 7.4 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. His athleticism and length are an exceptional combination, and he should be a strong defender right away.
Barnes: 10. With one of the purest strokes in the draft, Barnes’s ability to shoot the ball separates him from other prospects. He has a deadly mid-range off the dribble, and can step back and hit an open three—he shot 35.8 percent from beyond the arc last year.
He has some driving ability but could improve his ball handling and finishing skills to add another dimension to his game. Overall, 17.1 points per game last season is impressive, and still is only a glimpse of what Barnes could become offensively.
MGK: 8. Kidd-Gilchrist tends to score a lot around the basket and shot a stellar 49.1 percent from the field as a result. He has great quickness and the ability to drive and finish hard at the basket, and does a good job of scoring in transition and slashing to the basket for easy buckets.
Coaches love guys who can score without demanding too many shots—Kidd-Gilchrist averaged almost 12 points per game on only 8.2 shots, an excellent rate of efficiency.
Barnes: 8. Barnes only averaged 1.1 assists per game last season, and mostly looks for his own offense. From a mental standpoint, some scouts have been disappointed by Barnes’s inability to take over games or step up in a big moment. He is generally described as a passive personality, but he does have an excellent basketball IQ and understands both sides of the ball.
MGK: 10. Kidd-Gilchrist has a constant motor, and provides a certain tenacity that can infect a whole team. He is aggressive on both sides of the ball, and offensively he is always looking to attack and get his teammates open looks off penetration. Praised for his excellent work ethic, there is nothing not to like about Kidd-Gilchrist.
Barnes: 10. Barnes gets the slight edge because of his potential to become an elite scorer on the wing. To have such a nice jump shot and a good body to work with is a coach’s dream, and Barnes still has plenty of time to grow at 19 years old. If he could develop some driving ability and continue to hit jumpers, he could score in volume for years to come.
MGK: 9.5. Kidd-Gilchrist does not have the perimeter game that Barnes does, and it’s hard to teach a jump shot even to an exceptional athlete. That being said, Kidd-Gilchrist has tremendous potential as a defender and will only grow as an athletic finisher around the rim.
Barnes: 45, MGK: 46.5
Kidd-Gilchrist wins the overall as the player who simply impacts the game in more ways. Ford predicts that Kidd-Gilchrist will go second off the board, and that Barnes will be drafted seventh.
It would not be unexpected, however, if a team in need of some wing scoring and perimeter shooting valued Barnes over Kidd-Gilchrist. Everything will depend on the results of the lottery, so it is impossible to tell where each will be drafted, but it is certain that both of these prospects will hear their names called on early in round one of the draft.