It's still too early to panic. He did just turn 20 years old. But that doesn't erase the fact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was disappointing as a rookie and has been unimpressive in preseason.
After being selected No. 2 overall in the 2012 draft, he finished his rookie year with averages of nine points and 5.8 boards a game. But the stats don't tell the story.
Kidd-Gilchrist showed little ability to generate his own offense, particularly in the half court when the game got slower and the mid-range got crowded. He's had trouble creating his own shot, with line-drive mode the only feature available on his control.
He's a stud in the open floor or when a lane opens up. With long strides and explosive athleticism, M.K.G. is capable of hitting a hole and finishing over traffic.
But Kidd-Gilchrist can't create those holes with the dribble. He's forced to wait for the ball to find him when the defense is out of position or when he's isolated in space. The obvious adjustment he has to make is improving his shot-creating ability with the ball in his hands—it's just unlikely to happen overnight.
In the short term, Kidd-Gilchrist has to take advantage of any chance he can to catch the defense on its heels. That means exploiting mismatches against slower defenders or looking to push the ball off defensive rebounds. These are opportunities for easy buckets, and given how raw he is on the offensive end, he'll need all the free points he can get.
Need for a Jumper
I don't think you need to be a qualified basketball physician to diagnose Kidd-Gilchrist with a flat jumper. He was brutal in the mid- to long-range areas last season, only making 29 percent of his shots outside the key and inside the arc, according to NBA.com. With only two-made three-pointers all year, it's safe to say he's got an uphill climb as a shooter.
Being that Kidd-Gilchrist's most glowing offensive strength is his ability to attack the basket, defenders know their first responsibility is taking away the drive. They let him rise up and fire all day if it means not getting beat to the basket.
In an attempt to bait Kidd-Gilchrist into taking a jumper, some defenders didn't even bother putting their hands up.
Not only does the jumper increase his scoring opportunities and make him a multidimensional threat with the ball in his hands:
But a jumper that can threaten the defense will set up his attack game off the dribble. If he can get defenders to challenge him on the perimeter, he'll find himself in better position to blow by them and get to the rim.
It's tough to make it as a small forward if you can't connect on the perimeter.
And though not every NBA player needs to score, you do when you're the No. 2 selection in the draft. A wing who can't score isn't worth the value of a pick that high.
A big man, sure. But not a wing.
At the end of the day, it's tough to be too hard on Kidd-Gilchrist knowing he'll still be a kid four seasons from now. But that's how long it could take before we start seeing consistent results.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a long way away from his ceiling. He's got tons to improve on offensively, from his shot creativity to his shot makability.
Because of his motor and defensive impact, Kidd-Gilchrist is unlikely to ever get categorized as a draft bust. But him potentially being a disappointment is another story.
Now with a year under his belt, this is a big year for Kidd-Gilchrist from a developmental standpoint. If he fails to finish the season averaging double figures in scoring, fans, coaches and management might start to get a little anxious.