In a June 4 update to his analysis on Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, ESPN's Chad Ford quoted (subscription required) a general manager that basically encompassed every positive thing said about MKG:
All of my scouts love him. Actually, 'love' isn't a strong enough word. Our coaches, when they watch him play, beg me to go get him.
I've stood back for the past few months saying, 'What about his jump shot?' 'Can he create his own shot?' 'Is he big enough to thrive in the NBA?'
I've given up. I love him now more than they do. He has the ability to dramatically affect a game with and without the ball in his hands. Whenever he steps on or off the court, everything changes.
He's a winner. He's a leader. That motor he has, the toughness he has, the intensity that he has ? those are NBA skills, too.
For all of those reasons listed above, Kidd-Gilchrist has about as much chance of being a bust at the next level as I do of marrying Kate Upton. (Chances: NOT GOOD.)
But the words winner, leader and motor don't make you an All-Star. They make you a respectable starter at your peak and a Juwan Howard-esque towel waver at the end of your career.
Words like shooter, passer and dominant make All-Stars.
Don't get me wrong, character is important at every level of professional sports, but talent teams drafting in the top five aren't looking for "not busts." They're looking for franchise cornerstones.
And while Kidd-Gilchrist certainly is inarguably an elite prospect, he still needs to improve the following areas to make him a surefire All-Star.
1. His outside jumpshot.
MKG is a brilliant attacker who, when given space, can already finish at the rim with the NBA elite. His jumper, however, is basically broken.
According to Synergy Sports (as reported by Grantland's Sebastian Pruiti), Kidd-Gilchrist shot just 25.2 percent and averaged just 0.626 points per possession when taking a jumper at Kentucky. That rate ranks him in just the 17th percentile of all collegiate shooters.
In other words, his jumper doesn't "need work"—it needs a Tony Wroten-level complete overhaul if he ever wants defenders to respect his outside shot.
If MKG's work ethic is as great as everyone says, he should develop a relatively consistent perimeter shot by year three, but he'll probably always rank in the second quartile of NBA jump shooters.
2. His ball-handling needs work.
Shooting is obviously improvement priority No. 1 for Kidd-Gilchrist at the NBA level, but his handles will need improvement too. MKG was able to get away with his lack of ability to fluidly switch speeds or create much second movement penetration at the collegiate level by simply being more athletic and overpowering the opposition.
He won't have the same luxury at the next level.
His handling ability almost assuredly took down his aforementioned jump-shot percentage as his slow release and inability to create space off the dribble led to some tough shots when he did go shoot from the outside.
Again, this is a very correctable problem with the proper training. And if he ever puts together a secondary move to go with his quick first step, look out because very few defenders will be able to contain his dribble penetration.
Perhaps triggered by a self-awareness of the two aforementioned shortcomings, Kidd-Gilchrist shot the ball on just 18 percent of his possessions, ranking him last among Kentucky's rotation players, according to college basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy (subscription required).
Kentucky won a national championship, so you can't argue with the logic. But a player as physically overpowering at the collegiate level as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should have been more offensively assertive.
If MKG was that hesitant as a Wildcat, I can't help but wonder whether he'll ever be assertive enough to become an offensive force in the NBA.
If he does, we're looking at a perennial All-Star. If not, look forward to a lot of towel waving.
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