NBA Draft 2012: Why Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Will Become Draft's Best Player
This year's draft, like every other year, is full of question marks.
Sure, there are some players that are bigger risks than others, but ultimately all draft picks come with the caveat buyer beware.
The key to assessing a draft's players is discerning which players are riskier picks than others, and which players, given the right system, will become good players.
The draft, more than any other aspect of the game, is what typically gets general managers fired.
If you draft too many Greg Odens or Sam Bowies or Darko Milicics, you probably won't have a job for very long.
This year's draft has more risks than most years.
Andre Drummond is a physical beast, but too often he vanished last year. Is he really worth a high lottery pick?
Perry Jones III was way too inconsistent last year and tends to fall in love with the perimeter game. However, he is one of the most athletic players in this draft.
Heck, even the likely number one overall pick, Anthony Davis, is criticized for a fairly raw offensive game and a lack of bulk.
For these reasons among many others, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will ultimately be the best player in this draft.
Process of elimination
Before we discuss MKG's strengths and weaknesses, let's take a look at everyone else.
As of right now, most people agree that Bradley Beal will probably follow Davis in the draft at No. 2.
Beal is perhaps the most complete offensive guard in this draft, but he reminds me way too much of Ben and Eric Gordon.
Now both of those guys are tremendous offensive players, but both are undersized and a liability on defense.
They also have to be paired with a big, physical point guard which are in short supply these days.
But right now, Beal is basically a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body, and the history of the game is littered with these types of players and not all of them panned out.
Thomas Robinson is generally considered the next big man to go, and he definitely should become a good player.
But his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, he doesn't block many shots, and he could definitely stand to be a bit taller.
I like him, but I could see him becoming another Charles Oakley; a great rebounder and interior defender, but what else did he do with great ability?
Harrison Barnes is another stellar offensive wing, but his strength is his jump shot, not his ability to get to the hoop.
Best case scenario, he develops into a Rudy Gay type of player. But personally, I could see his career being a little closer to Walt Williams.
Damian Lillard is the highest rated point guard in the draft, but the level of competition he faced could make him a gamble.
John Henson desperately needs to add bulk, and there are no guarantees he will. Just look at Austin Daye.
Tyler Zeller is good, but projects to be a more athletic version of Eric Montross.
Terrence Jones is gifted athletically, but when the offense didn't go through him early in games, he vanished and sulked. His body language gave a lot to be desired, and his numbers went way down in his sophomore season.
Meyers Leonard is athletic but raw.
Kendall Marshall is a pure point guard that lacks the other offensive tools you need in a lottery pick.
Dion Waiters, Jeremy Lamb and Austin Rivers are all extremely talented, but each have their own red flags.
Waiters is a very good player, but somewhat small and doesn't have the best jumper.
Lamb is painfully thin, and will get pushed around on the defensive side of the ball.
Rivers is brash, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. I love his game, but will he be hungry to improve?
I have been around the game of basketball for a long time, and in my experience there are three things that are contagious.
If you get a couple of guys on a team that love to pass and are committed to helping out the team at any cost, it spreads to everyone else.
Take a look at the Sacramento Kings about 10-15 years ago.
When Jason Williams came along, it made it fun to pass. Vlade Divac fed off of this, and this in turn spread to Chris Webber.
When you are unselfish on the offensive side of the ball, it brings out the best in your teammates.
Kidd-Gilchrist didn't have outstanding assist numbers, but if you watched Kentucky play, he was always getting his teammates involved.
He wanted to win at all costs, and he didn't care if he was the one that was doing the scoring as long as it got done.
The second contagious trait is defense.
When you make it a challenge to shut down the opposition, your team takes on a new persona.
Whenever I talk to retired soldiers, I find that they all share one important trait.
When asked if they were ever scared by the fighting, they always reply that they were more afraid of letting down their fellow soldiers.
Nobody wants to be the weak link.
Obviously comparing the military to a basketball team is like comparing apples to grenades, but a team can be run with a similar drive, but only when it comes to defense.
Take a look at the Pistons from 2003-2008, and especially in their title-winning season of 2004.
Defense became everything to them, and they made it a challenge to shut down the other team.
In fact, they had a stretch of over 10 games in a row in which they held opponents under 70 points.
Routinely they caused back-court violations due to tenacious full-court pressure.
Typically weak defenders like Rip Hamilton suddenly became great team defenders, and they owed that to the leadership of guys like Ben Wallace who could take over a game without scoring.
MKG has this same type of ability.
If you saw Kentucky play this year, Kidd-Gilchrist routinely motivated his teammates due to his desire to shut down his opponents.
You could hear him through the television, shouting encouragement and instructions on the defensive side of the ball.
This in turn motivated everyone, even typically lackadaisical defenders like Teague and Jones.
The last trait that is contagious is energy.
If you see a teammate that has a motor that won't quit, it makes you want to hustle as well.
When a team has five guys on the court that don't want to be out-hustled by anyone, you have a team that will gobble up all the loose balls and a huge handful of the rebounds.
These three traits are the three best things about MKG.
Not Superman, but close
Okay, so MKG is not without his faults.
Sometimes his enthusiasm can get the best of him, and lead to silly fouls and overly aggressive play.
He is such a competitor that sometimes his emotions get the best of him.
And while he is an amazing athlete with the ability to penetrate at will, he does not have a polished perimeter scoring game.
He only shot about 26 percent from three-point range, and that is the college line.
In the pros, he will struggle to become a consistent three point threat.
That said, it really doesn't matter if he stretches the floor or not.
His game is defense, energy and scoring around the rim.
He has a freakish seven foot wingspan, and already has an NBA body.
In the NBA, the projections of what type of player he will become range from someone like Gerald Wallace to someone like Dennis Rodman.
Personally, I think he will have a little bit of each in him, but with a better offensive game.
Looking around the league right now, I think there is one problem most teams have. Nobody has a guy that is physical and athletic enough to give LeBron James trouble, and nobody has a guy long and athletic enough to stick with Kevin Durant.
This draft is long on players with good offensive games and solid rebounding chops.
What it doesn't have is another guy in it that can even come close to guarding those two guys.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, if he is developed correctly, could become that player.
What would be more valuable than that?
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