Michael Kidd-Gilchrist during preseason with the Bobcats.
Finally, the Charlotte Bobcats have broken that horrific 23-game losing streak that dated back to last season. The other good news is that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has shown some positive signs in his opening NBA games.
Picked No. 2 in the NBA draft, Kidd-Gilchrist is one of the players that Charlotte is desperately hoping will pull it back into the playoff mix in coming seasons. Alongside Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker, who put together his best NBA performance in the team's season opener, MKG represents the future of this struggling franchise.
Kidd-Gilchrist's attributes are well-documented. At 6'7" and 232 lbs, the former Kentucky star has the perfect size and build for the small forward slot. Additionally, a 7'0" wingspan means he has considerable length. Although his offensive game is somewhat limited, there are a number of things that MKG is capable of doing at an elite level.
A terrific athlete with an appetite for hard work, Kidd-Gilchrist has the tools to be one of the league's very best defenders in the mould of Andre Iguodala. Not only can he shut down an opponent on the perimeter, but he's also capable of hitting the glass in the manner of a much bigger player.
On the other end of the floor, MKG can be devastating in transition as a scorer and playmaker, and he can explosively slash to the rim as well as score effectively in the post.
With that said, if the Bobcats plan on maximizing Kidd-Gilchrist's development, then working on his weaknesses while allowing him to play to his strengths will be critical.
With MKG's abilities in mind, here are four areas in which Charlotte can improve and utilize their prized No. 2 pick.
Shooting is without question MKG's biggest deficiency. While he's an elite athlete capable of making an impact on each end of the floor, there is no consistency to his jump shooting at this stage. According to Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress, the star forward from Kentucky shot just 25.5 percent from three, 30 percent from spot-ups, 25 percent on all jumpers and just 19 percent from jumpers inside 17 feet last season. That he still managed to record a 49.1 percent field-goal average over the course of the season is a testament to how skilled he is around the rim and out in transition.
However, there are some major flaws to his shooting form that need to be corrected if he is to be a consistent offensive threat in the NBA. If you examine the clips below, you'll notice he's rarely square to the basket, and he tends to bring the ball across himself. That's not a great way to start a shooting stroke. A wide stance complicates the matter further, and he has a habit of releasing the ball on the way down, leading to a rather flat arc. Although he'll never be Ray Allen, the Bobcats need to put some serious time into correcting some of these curable flaws if he is to reach his potential.
Multiple Position Role
Led by LeBron James, the NBA is headed in a direction in which traditional positions are becoming less relevant. While the point guard and center remain the most defined positions on the floor, the 2, 3 and 4 slots are beginning to hold a smaller differential. This is showcased best by traditional small forwards such as James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony who are being used at the power forward position quite regularly.
Given the way the league is heading, it would make sense for the Bobcats to utilize Kidd-Gilchrist in a multiple position role. While it would take some time for MKG to acclimate to such a role in the NBA, this season isn't about winning for Charlotte. Developing its No. 2 pick should be the priority.
Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress best illustrates how effective Kidd-Gilchrist is at the defensive end. At Kentucky, MKG's opponents shot just 25 percent in isolation situations, 20.3 percent off the dribble and just 31.4 percent at the rim. Even more impressive is that pick-and-roll ball-handlers shot just 23.5 percent.
With his elite athletic ability, MKG has the ability to lock down defensively on players from point guards to power forwards. His quickness and agility means he's able to keep up with the more explosive guards, while his size and length allows him to lock horns with forwards.
If you examine the clips below, you'll notice he rarely gets beaten off the dribble, and when he does he always recovers to impact the shot. Additionally, he quickly fills passing lanes and rapidly identifies where help is needed and makes the correct rotation.
With these abilities, it would make sense for Charlotte to use MKG in a multiple position role, particularly on the defensive end.
Play With Pace
The best way to maximize the use of athletically gifted players is to allow them to play fast, explosive basketball. In the early part of this season, it appears that the Bobcats are already attempting to do just that.
Although it's a tiny sample size so early in the season, Charlotte is ranked fifth in the league for pace at 98 possessions per game according to ESPN. That must continue if the team is to get the best out of Kidd-Gilchrist.
While his shooting will take time to develop, getting out in transition and getting looks early in the shot clock will be the best method for allowing the rookie to score and feel comfortable at the NBA level.
His elite defense should see him force turnovers when guarding, leading to transition opportunities at the other end. Given that he was the No. 1 player in transition in this year's draft class, recording a 70.5 field-goal percentage in that regard, it would make sense to allow him and the team to run.
Need more evidence? Once you've checked out these clips, you'll surely agree.
Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is the most notable of those who have made the comparison between Kidd-Gilchrist and Bulls' legend Scottie Pippen. Jordan referred to MKG as a "connector guy", someone who is able to connect the dots and do a lot of things for his team. Although it's expecting a lot of the 19-year-old to emulate the Bulls' great, given Kidd-Gilchrist's abilities, it's a fair comparison in terms of player type. Additionally, using the former Kentucky star in a Pippen-like role may be the best way to extract the most from him.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a very good playmaker and unselfish passer of the ball. Capable of finding his big men down low for an easy basket, MKG is also very good at drawing the defense on his way to the rim before kicking it out to the perimeter. However, he's at his best when pushing the ball up the court, expertly finding slashers with drop-off passes.
Considering it's unlikely he'll develop into an elite scorer, using MKG in a hybrid role this season may be the best way to fast-track his development. Placing the ball in his hands will reduce the number of spot-up situations he finds himself in and will encourage him to score at the rim as well as distribute when the play requires it. As previously stated, he'd benefit from playing a multiple position role on the defensive end, but if he's given the chance to be a "connector" on offense, then he truly could become an elite two-way player.
If the Bobcats can improve their young star's shooting and utilize him in the aforementioned ways, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could develop into one of the league's best multi-dimensional players.