Charlotte Hornets: The time is now for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 29: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 29: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist /

MKG is only 24-years old but the time is now for the Charlotte Hornets’ swingman to prove that he can take his game to the next level.

Much has been said about the Charlotte Hornets and their much-needed offseason roster additions. But there is one, in particular, that could prove just as important to the team’s success this coming season.

That would be none other than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

“MKG”, as he is affectionately referred to by many of the Hornets faithful, is coming off a season where he averaged career bests in free throw percentage, blocks, steals, and games played. He is an exceptional rebounder for his position and can defend multiple positions on the floor.

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However, the Hornets need more from the former #2 overall draft pick to be contenders this season.

The Somerdale, New Jersey native has struggled with injuries in the past. Therefore, durability has to be a concern. While he played in a personal best 81 games last year, this has not always been the case.  Injuries were especially relevant in 2015 when MKG missed nearly the entire season. Staying healthy is key if the Hornets are to establish any kind of consistency with their lineup.

The Hornets added some much-needed offense this summer with the additions of draft picks Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon. However, Kidd-Gilchrist can contribute further on this end of the floor.

First of all, MKG has an outstanding ability to get to the rim. Therefore, he should average better than 2.4 free throw attempts per game. He shot a career high 78.4% on free throws as well, so Kidd-Gilchrist should be looking to get to the line more often and shoot it with confidence. He has also steadily raised his field goal percentage since entering the league. His 47.7% last year was second only to the 2015-16 season, where he only played seven games and averaged an inflated 54.1%.

Kidd-Gilchrist’s true value, however, lies on the defensive end. He was tied for the team lead in blocks and tied for second in steals last year. He was also the team’s best rebounder despite standing at only 6’7″.

The addition of Dwight Howard, an exceptional interior defender in his own right, should only make MKG more potent on defense. Kidd-Gilchrist should be able to play even more aggressively on the perimeter, knowing that on the occasion he gets beaten he has Howard as another line of defense protecting the rim.

Going into his sixth year with the team, it’s easy to forget that Kidd-Gilchrist is only 23 years old. He still has much room to improve his game and become a true force in this league. Remember, teammate Kemba Walker was named an NBA All Star for the first time at age 26. This shows that one can still reach into untapped potential well into their 20’s.

Next: Projecting Charlotte's 2017-18 starting lineup and sixth man

With a defensive versatility that is unmatched on the current Charlotte Hornets roster, and a still improving offensive game, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could prove to be the one true X-factor of anyone on the team this year.