Amid all the free agency buzz surrounding Gordon Hayward’s max offer sheet, 4 years, $63 million, comes a pleasant surprise out of the Hornet’s practice Tuesday morning. Evidence from Charlotte’s practice today shows Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has reduced his shooting motion by at least one hitch.
You can see Kidd-Gilchrist shooting in the background of this video featuring Noah Vonleh knocking down jump shots.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting is just one aspect of his game that has the Hornets considering an upgrade on the wing. For the better part of the last two seasons, Hornets fans have been waiting to see the 2nd overall pick of the 2012 draft develop into legitimate wing threat. While MKG brings steady defensive play, his offense leaves much to be desired. The NBA has become a league where 3-point shooting is basically mandatory for playoff success, Kidd-Gilchrist offers essentially nothing as a deep threat. He is 3-18 for his career from deep.
Consider this: in virtually every Charlotte Bobcats game last season, a back-up wing played the 4th quarter over Kidd-Gilchrist, the starter, because of his limited offensive ability. The Bobcats eventually settled on Chris Douglas-Roberts as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s primary backup. Douglas-Roberts performed admirably, averaging 7.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and nearly 40% from behind the arc in his first sustained NBA playing time since 2011.
Rich Cho, and the rest of the Hornets brain trust, have every reason to be concerned about Kidd-Gilchrist’s progress. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) decreased from 14.0 to 12.0 last season, with his points, rebounding, and assists numbers decreasing as well, though Kidd-Gilchrist played nearly 2 minutes less per game.
Hearing that Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot is improving is promising news because there is no certainty the Hornets will emerge from free agency with a bona fide star. Utah has publicly announced they will match any offer for Hayward. Other prospects, Chandler Parsons, Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, and Lance Stephenson seem uninterested in Charlotte, or in Lance’s case, Charlotte has shown no interest in him – yet. That Kidd-Gilchrist may enter next season as the starting small forward again is a very real possibility.
It’s worth considering that Kidd-Gilchrist may be on the verge of improving into a “4 quarter” player worthy of being drafted 2nd overall. Kidd-Gilchrist dazzled in Game 2 of the 2014 playoff series against Miami. In 34 minutes, MKG produced 22 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and a block on 9-13 shooting, all the while guarding the best player on the planet. You can see his highlights here.
If Hayward does make his way to Charlotte, I see Kidd-Gilchrist’s fate playing out in three possibilities. First, MKG loses his starting role to Hayward and becomes a 18-24 minute-a-night backup on the wing. Perhaps coming off the bench is the best role for Kidd-Gilchrist. He won’t have to worry about foul trouble, and won’t be relied upon for scoring.
Another option is that Kidd-Gilchrist remains a starter with Hayward moving into the shooting guard spot, ostensibly vacated by Gerald Henderson. Henderson could leave via sign and trade to obtain Hayward. I do not think Henderson moves to the bench if he and Hayward are both on the roster. A final option is the MKG is included in a sign and trade for Hayward, ending his tenure as a Hornet.
Charlotte has two seasons left on Kidd-Gilchrist’s current contract. Whether the plan is to move ahead with MKG as the starting small foward, move him to a reserve role, or float him as trade bait, any improvement in his offensive game will be beneficial. Though it’s not a lot to build on – a tweet, two shots on video and one playoff game – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may be the star wing player Hornets fans have been hoping for all summer after all.
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