Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Wants to Be Best Defender Ever


In a recent article on the Charlotte Observer, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said that he wants to be the best defender ever.

"“I want to say ever; not just in the league (now). The best defender this league has seen,” Kidd-Gilchrist told the Observer.“It’s baby steps. But when it’s all said and done, I want people to say, ‘That guy right there was the dog!’ That’s all I want.”"

That is a quite a statement for a third year player. The question is, is that kind of confidence justified? Right now, according to basketball-reference.com, his defensive win shares, an advanced statistic that tries to quantify an individual player’s affect on a team’s defense, is only 2.0.

Compare that number to MVP candidate and noted defensive liability James Harden, of the Houston Rockets. Harden’s defensive win shares are a robust 3.6 this season. If Kidd-Gilchrist wants to be the best ever, then surely he must first become better than Harden.

More from Hornets News

In fact, Kidd-Gilchrist’s defensive win shares is not even in the top 20 in the NBA right now. However, that does not mean that Kidd-Gilchrist is a bad defender, or that he does not have the tools to be one of the best, if not the best ever.

When I think of the best ever perimeter defenders, the first name that comes to mind is Scottie Pippen. Pippen was the defensive anchor for one of the best teams of all in time in the six time NBA champion Chicago Bulls.

In fact, given Pippen’s all-around game but questionable long distance shooting, he would seem to be the perfect doppelganger for Kidd-Gilchrist, and the best case scenario for the Hornets.

Both players were similarly sized, Pippen at 6’8″, 210lbs, and Kidd-Gilchrist measuring 6’7″, 230lbs. Neither was known as being an exceptional shooter, but both players are locker room leaders and floor generals.

Pippen finished the 1994-95 season, at age 29, with a 6.7 defensive win shares. That would end up being his career high. At age 22, as an NBA Rookie, though, Pippen finished the season with only a 2.6 in DWS.

Kidd-Gilchrist is only 21. That means that despite three extra years of NBA service time, Kidd-Gilchrist is still younger than Pippen during the Bulls’ player’s first year. That certainly gives hope to the Charlotte organization.

There is also the reality that defensive win shares may not be the best way to measure defensive success. Using ESPN’s Real Plus Minus, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suddenly looks much better.

He finishes fourth in that category, behind Draymond Green, Tony Allen, and Kawhi Leonard among small forwards, and 13th among all NBA players. So clearly he must have some defensive skills.

Exactly how to measure those skills is still debatable, but as player tracking data becomes more available, and teams and statisticians learn how to better interpret that data, then perhaps we will be able to truly understand what makes a good defender.

Right now, we have to mostly rely on the eye test, and some convoluted formulas. I have always loved the plus/minus stat, despite its flaws. Real plus minus is an attempt to correct those flaws, but in doing so it becomes more convoluted and thus people are less confident in the numbers.

Regardless of what stat you use, one thing is definitely clear, his teammates love the game of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and this year the team has performed much better when he is on the court.

"“He has everybody’s trust and guys all look to him for his energy,” point guard Kemba Walker described. “He’s our defensive anchor. We follow him. As he goes, we all go.”"

His teammates follow him because of his hustle and innate leadership. He is one of the rare NBA players who tries to lift up his teammates, who encourages them and holds them accountable at the same time.

More than anything, though, his teammates follow him because Kidd-Gilchrist is all about winning.

"“I don’t like getting scored on. I take it personally,” Kidd-Gilchrist summed up.“I hate getting scored on and I hate losing basketball games.”"

And just think, he is only going to get better. Who knows, maybe one day we look back on his career and say he really was better than Scottie Pippen. Lofty goals, but if anyone can achieve them, it is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Next: Is The NBA Draft Overrated?

More from Swarm and Sting