FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings count down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post.
After missing the majority of the 2015-16 season with injuries, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played 81 games last year, re-establishing himself as a top-100 player in the league.
Kidd-Gilchrist’s position is a relatively stable one as long as he stays healthy because his presence here is predicated on his defensive prowess, and that sort of effectiveness tends to be more consistent than that of the offensive variety. Perhaps that’s because it takes a while for defensive reputation to take a hit, or maybe it’s because the steady effort which it takes to establish oneself as an elite stopper is in itself consistent.
MKG landed on the rankings of three of our voters but missed entirely on the other two. While his floor is high, his ceiling is low since he is so limited on the offensive end. We’ll cover the offensive issue more in the next section, but for now, suffice to say that in an age where defensive wings are best equipped with 3-point range, Kidd-Gilchrist has made just seven treys in his career.
Without adding some sort of range to his arsenal, it’s hard to envision him climbing much higher.
As established, MKG has no jump shot to speak of. It’s not just bad; it’s awful. According to Synergy Sports, his no-dribble jumper averaged just .684 points per possession and a 34.2 effective field-goal percentage, worse than 92 percent of NBA players. It’s a shot he has worked on over the years, but it never seems to get better.
Watching the film on it for a while you notice two things in particular. First, his guide hand seems to be all over the place. As a result, he tends to “thumb” the ball, which sends the shot off course. The second thing you notice is he has a weird habit of releasing the ball after he hits the apex of his jump, not at the apex of his jump. Because of that, the shot tends to come up short a lot. To compensate for that he throws it more than shoots it, which only magnifies the effect of thumbing it.
You see an example of both here. He pushes the ball with his guide hand and doesn’t release the shot until after he’s on his way down:
There are other aspects of his offense which are good. He’s a good “garbage man,” able to make points off of offensive rebounds and cuts, but as a true offensive threat, he’s minimized by his horrible jumper and the Hornets are reduced to playing four-on-five while he’s on the court.
If you’re judging his defense based solely on his Synergy numbers, it looks bad for him. He gives up 0.86 points per possession, which placed him in just the 18th percentile. But watch the film and you start to understand why that understates his impact. According to NBA.com, the Hornets’ defense was 5.8 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court. So why the disparity between numbers?
First, MKG was usually guarding the first option on the other team. That was coupled by the fact that he’s not getting help behind him. If he got caught at all by a screen, there was nothing behind him to stop, and that really sabotaged his numbers.
When he was on the court with Cody Zeller, the Hornets’ most competent defensive big, the Hornets’ defensive rating dropped to just 101.6 as opposed to 106.0 without him. Their defense was also just 106.9 with Zeller and no MKG. So it wasn’t either one of them carrying the other, but the two of them holding up the defense.
MKG has good lateral quickness, uses his feet well to stay in front of a defender, doesn’t seem to commit a lot of fouls, and most importantly, stays focused. Even if a guy gets by him, he’ll often still make a defensive play following up, such as he did here when MVP Russell Westbrook got past him only to have his pass batted away:
MKG’s tenacity combined with his 7-foot wingspan makes him a very disruptive defender, and disruptive means effective.
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