Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: Why Kentucky Star Might Be Draft's Best Guard

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 25:  Anthony Davis #23, Eloy Vargas #30 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate their 82 to 70 win over the Baylor Bears during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Final at the Georgia Dome on March 25, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

NBA teams who lost the Anthony Davis sweepstakes could receive a substantial consolation prize in fellow Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

While Kidd-Gilchrist does not possess Davis' game-changing ability that will make the big man the face of the New Orleans Hornets for years, he can play a pivotal role for any team that drafts him.

Many mock drafts predict different destinations for the 6'7" shooting guard/small forward. While Sam Amick of SI.com believes the Charlotte Bobcats will take him directly after Davis with the No. 2 pick, CBS Sportsline's Jeff Goodman projects him falling to the Sacramento Kings at pick No. 5. 

Goodman expects Florida's Bradley Beal and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes to walk on stage before David Stern calls Kidd-Gilchrist's name in this year's NBA Draft. Beal and Barnes may both offer more upside and scoring potential, but Kidd-Gilchrist is a safer bet who will likely emerge as a better all-around player.

While he won't dazzle anyone on the offensive end, Kidd-Gilchrist should develop into an effective scorer during his NBA career. He picked his spots well last year, shooting 49.1 percent with 8.2 field goals attempted per game. NBA DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony summarized Kidd-Gilchrist's offensive skills.

In the half-court, Kidd-Gilchrist doesn't have the most visually appealing style of play, but he finds ways to be productive, often through sheer desire and tenacity. He has the ability to go inside the paint and back down smaller wing players in post situations, showing great strength overpowering opponents and having no problems finishing through contact ... Kidd-Gilchrist has an excellent feel for the game, which shows up in the way he moves intelligently without the ball, as well as with his passing skills, which are very well developed considering his age.

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 18: Bradley Beal #23 of the Florida Gators looks for an opening in the Norfolk State Spartans during the second round of the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center March 18, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/
Eric Francis/Getty Images

He makes up for his offensive limitations by displaying great defensive tenacity and a motor that never stops. Kidd-Gilchrist is a great perimeter defender whose versatility can benefit any organization. Big enough to guard a forward and agile enough to keep up with a guard, he can help any team regardless of their positional needs. 

Kidd-Gilchrist can also rebound, averaging 7.4 boards during his freshman season. Throw in solid ball-handling and shot-blocking skills for his size, and a pro team will struggle to find an 18-year-old more polished and NBA-ready than Kidd-Gilchrist.

Beal, often compared to Eric Gordon, could entice the Bobcats due to their desperation for any excitement that can lift the franchise from its current state of disarray. More likely to develop as a top scoring option, Beal is the flashier choice for a team loaded with unknowns.

They need to realize, however, that nobody available to them is capable of reshaping the franchise right now. If they want the best available player who can motivate the squad to turn around their druid performance and at least compete on a nightly basis, Kidd-Gilchrist should be their man.

It might be an awkward fit at first since he is not suited for such a substantial offensive role this early in his career, but he can emerge as a leader immediately and lift the downtrodden fan-base with persistence that will make him an instant favorite in Charlotte.

He showed great leadership at Kentucky that should only flourish when he exits his teenage years. Whoever drafts Kidd-Gilchrist can count on him to out-hustle his matchup and never give up on a play, which certainly cannot be said about most rookies. 

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 02:  Thomas Robinson #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks with the ball as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes after it in the first half in the National Championship Game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tour
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Bobcats, Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers might be afraid to draft Kidd-Gilchrist because he doesn't offer the superstar potential desired from such a high draft pick. Kidd-Gilchrist has all the makings of a dependable NBA player, but he doesn't blow anyone away enough to believe he warrants selection at pick No. 2 or 3.

People said the same things about James Harden when the Oklahoma City Thunder grabbed him with the No. 3 pick in the 2009 Draft. Although a great overall talent, no particular part of Harden's game wowed the scouts. 

Ask the Thunder now, and I bet they're more than happy with their selection.

Any team expecting Kidd-Gilchrist to single-handedly save their franchise is sorely mistaken, but like Harden, he can play a monumental role as the second or third guy and heart-and-soul of a legitimate contender. He fit the role perfectly as Davis' sidekick during the Wildcats' championship run.

Does it really matter if Kidd-Gilchrist feels more like a No. 6 pick than a No. 2 or 3 pick? When he's a significant piece of an NBA squad in a few years, nobody will care where he was drafted. 

They will just be happy that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is on their team.