Michael Kidd-Gilchrist becomes a very real possibility now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have secured the third best lottery odds in the draft. MKG to the Cavs is particularly appealing to a lot of Cavs fans for three main reasons.
One, he’s good (and nearly every mock draft has him rated as the No. 2 prospect); two, he’s by far the youngest player in this draft class—he won’t turn 19 for another five months; and three, he and Kyrie Irving went to the same high school.
When it comes to Kidd-Gilchrist and the prospects of him becoming a Cav, I’m in the minority. I’ve got nothing against the former Kentucky freshman. He’s a terrific young talent who plays with a ton of energy and toughness; I just think the Cavs would be making a mistake if they took him (provided they take him in the top four).
If the Cavs are drafting anywhere in the top five (not counting the No. 1 pick), Harrison Barnes should be their guy.
Right now MKG is clearly the sexier pick over Barnes. He has a bit more potential, he’s coming off a National Championship and he played alongside Anthony Davis, the consensus No. 1 pick in this draft.
Regardless of whom the Cavs take in the upcoming draft, they probably won’t be drafting this high again for a while. They can either use this logic to propel themselves into taking the better all-around talent (Gilchrist), or they can use this logic as a platform to talk themselves into Barnes, who is the consensus best fit for this team both right now and going forward.
Last year the Cavs were in the situation of drafting the best player available, and if this were last year I’d be all for MKG. This year though, despite finishing with the third worst record in the league, they’re in a different position.
Kyrie Irving should (and most likely will) directly affect the Cavaliers' decision-making process in the draft. Especially in the lottery portion. They can either “build” around their star rookie point guard or they can “add” to their star point guard.
With Barnes, they’re building, and with Gilchrist they’re simply adding; by adding I mean they would be adding talent. More often than not, this doesn’t warrant the best of outcomes. (See the Minnesota Timberwolves.)
I’ll put it like this: Harrison Barnes needs Kyrie Irving more than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist needs Kyrie Irving. And Kyrie Irving needs Harrison Barnes more than he needs Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Walker Beeken at Draft Express says this about Barnes: “If he's forced to be a go-to option too early in his career, Barnes may struggle to adjust, but if he lands on a team playing for a coach who understands his strengths and limitations, and with a point guard who can get him the ball in the right spots, he has a chance for early success.” With Irving at the point and Byron Scott at the helm, the Cavs, more than any other lottery team are the best fit for Barnes.
It’s not just about Barnes being the better fit though. It’s about the fact that Gilchrist scares me. He has the prototypical look of a prospect with star/bust potential.
At 6’7" Gilchrist is a wingman who is an average perimeter shooter. (Subliminal message: Barnes is a terrific shooter who will benefit from the extended NBA three-point line.) He shot 25 percent from three-point land in 51 attempts in his freshman year.
At Kentucky he mostly feasted on fast break points (an area he’s terrific in) and using his quick first step to get around smaller, slower college defenders to get to the basket for easy buckets.
Although he averaged 7.6 rebounds per game, he’s not the ideal rebounder Barnes is. In fact, we’ve actually overrated that aspect of Gilchrist’s game. Heck, we may have overrated Gilchrist altogether. He benefited a ton from playing with Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones.
On the glass, they drew a ton of attention from opposing teams. Teams would often have to box out with an extra man, leaving Gilchrist the odd man out and free to do whatever. This also helped him on the offensive end too.
Once he beat the initial defender off the ball he could get to the hoop with relative ease because...well, Anthony Davis was lurking.
On top of that, Gilchrist only accounted for 18 percent of Kentucky’s shots this season (according to Ken Pomeroy, h/t Jonathan Givony of Draft Express), which ranked seventh among the team. This isn’t a big surprise given how stacked and talented Kentucky was, but maybe that’s the role he was most comfortable playing in.
After all, it wasn’t too long ago MKG was adamant about staying in school for his sophomore season; Calipari essentially forced him to forgo the rest of his college career and enter the draft.
It was the opposite case for Barnes. He passed up the opportunity to go No. 1 or 2 overall in last year's draft to stay another year. And it ended up hurting him. Barnes didn’t show much of any improvement from his first to second year, but I correlate that to his being a pure shooting scorer on a Carolina team that was so talented and well-rounded that it didn’t know how to properly utilize and maximize Barnes.
Whether that was the case isn’t too relevant though. What’s relevant is that the Cavs, most likely, will lose Antawn Jamison this offseason. They’ve got to replace his outside scoring somehow. Correction: They’ve got to replace his outside presence and threat.
I can’t conclude without touching on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s high school ties to Kyrie Irving. As mentioned, this is perceived to be beneficial—an incentive for the Cavs to take him with their pick. However, maybe it’s just me, but the whole high school affiliation thing has “potential alpha dog complications” written all over it. As does the collective youth and inexperience of both players.
If we’re going to talk about former school ties then we should be looking more closely at Barnes. You know, the former Tar Heel.
A Duke/UNC complex is 10 times more intriguing than what Gilchrist would bring to the table, isn’t it? It would be a paradox unlike anything we’ve seen in the NBA., and honestly, that’s why it would work. I mean, it’s not as if Irving bleeds white and blue; he played 11 games there.
Plus, the Cavs would slither their way into an untapped Charlotte market that (thanks to the Bobcats) does not have a professional basketball team. Chris Grant, please give the kind people down in North Carolina something to root for.
Hell, give us all something to root for, it’s not everyday you get the chance to finally unite the people who represent one of sports biggest, most heated rivals.