Wizard fans aren’t sold on the idea of drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
From Bullets Forever…
Expected draft position: Top Five
College career recap: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had an incredible season as the glue-guy on a Kentucky Wildcats team that stormed to the NCAA Championship as a result of an incredible class of freshmen and the returning Terrence Jones. Kidd-Gilchrist rarely saw the ball in the half-court, but he was an excellent transition player who could finish around the basket at an elite level and make the extra pass. He also drew rave reviews as a high-character guy who played a selfless brand of team basketball and was never resentful of high profile teammates like Jones, Anthony Davis, Doron Lamb, and Marquis Teague.
Best attributes: Kidd-Gilchrist has a well-earned reputation as an elite defender with the ability to guard multiple positions. With excellent quickness and solid size for a small forward, he could very well be able to guard all three perimeter positions at the next level as well as some of the weaker or smaller power forwards. This defensive versatility would allow the Wizards to play non-traditional players — think a three point specialist like Steve Novak or an undersized shooting guard like Jason Terry or JJ Barea — on a regular basis, since Kidd-Gilchrist and John Wall are both versatile defenders while all of the current frontcourt players possess solid to elite lateral quickness for bigs. It’s easy to imagine a lineup of of Wall/a shooting guard to be named later/Kidd-Gilchrist/Jan Vesely/Nene wreaking havoc on teams that are extremely reliant on the pick and rolls and dribble penetration. Washington would instantly become a team designed to give teams like the Heat, Spurs and Celtics trouble.
Kidd Gilchrist also put up excellent rebounding numbers for a small forward last year, averaging 9.5 per pace adjusted 40 minutes, which is comparable to Carmelo Anthony and Luol Deng and elite for an NCAA small forward. Perhaps more impressively is that he did this while playing next to two of the top rebounders in the country in Jones and Davis.
Kidd-Gilchrist also has a reputation as a player who does all of the little things — moving without the ball, setting screens, making the extra pass, and hustling on every possession — that don’t show up in the box score but lead to wins. He projects to be an excellent glue guy and has drawn numerous comparisons to players like Shane Battier and Deng, both of whom have always played for teams that were at worst respectable.
Biggest weakness: Kidd-Gilchrist is a very poor outside shooter with bad shot mechanics. They’re not quite Chuck Hayes or Rajon Rondo bad, but they don’t bode well for his future as a shooter. Although his free throw percentage was a very solid 75 percent, he showed no flashes of being able to make shots outside of the paint. There are guys with his skill-set who have been effective, most notably Gerald Wallace and Shawn Marion, but the recent track record for small forwards who can’t shoot is very poor. Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Singleton and Joe Alexander all had similar games in college and have thus far struggled to produce in the NBA. While Kidd-Gilchrist has a better reputation as a winner and hustle player than any of them, there’s a very strong case to be made that he has as little or less polish than each of them as a scorer.
He did manage to get to the line at a very high rate, has a reasonable handle, and has shown the ability to post up smaller players, but it’s questionable how well those skills will translate to the bigger, stronger NBA.
Why he’d fit in D.C.: He’s a completely selfless player on a team that is attempting to rebrand itself as one that plays the right way. Washington’s lack of an elite isolation scorer a la Anthony, Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki almost requires that the team constantly look to make the extra pass and move without the ball, and it’s easy to see MKG fit well in such a system. He’s a bona fide winner who just happens to have experienced his greatest success at the Wizards’ franchise player’s alma mater only two years after he left.
Kidd-Gilchrist is also an extremely fast player who is an elite finisher in transition. Per MySynergySports.com (via Draft Express), he finished 71 percent of his transition opportunities, which was first in the nation last year. He might not have the ability to create as many shots as a LeBron James or Andre Igoudala, but Kidd-Gilchrist projects to be similar to them in terms of his ability to finish at the rim. Considering that the Wizards’ already have fast guys who can finish at the basket in Wall, Nene, Vesely and Trevor Booker, Kidd-Gilchrist, along with a shooting guard who can excel as a spot up man from behind the arc while trailing the break, may very well be the key to Washington putting together one of the better transition teams in recent memory. An up-tempo team that loves to defend and dunk on people while being made up of high-character guys is very marketable, both in terms of selling tickets and attracting free agents.
Why he might not: Kidd-Gilchrist just can’t shoot. Not from behind the arc, not from mid-range and barely from the line. Without completely rebuilding his shot mechanics — which players rarely seem to do — he most likely never will. Washington lacks shooting at point guard, power forward and center, and it’s still up in the air as to whether or not the primary shooting guard next year will be a good three-point shooter. The paint could wind up getting clogged and hurting everyone’s ability to finish there.
There’s also a reasonable chance that he winds up a bust, at least relative to his draft position. His rates of blocks and steals were more good than great, indicating that he won’t be a completely dominant athlete at the next level. Some of this might be a result of how he plays — he rarely gambles for blocks or steals, which is relatively uncommon among hustle players — but for the most part, guys who don’t put up high rates of blocks and steals in college tend to struggle at the next level if they’re highly reliant on athleticism. As mentioned earlier, some of most similar players to him in terms of his stats and role on his team wound up being guys who are rotation players who wouldn’t be able to start on an elite team. That’s perfectly fine for someone who’s drafted 22nd, but you want more out of a top-five pick. Someone like Corey Brewer or even Singleton could provide a lot of the same things as Kidd-Gilchrist — transition finishes, the occasional corner three pointer, and high-energy defense — for a lot less.
Verdict: Washington should take him, but consider other options very carefully. He’s a very solid player, but as great as what he brings to the table is, his lack of an outside shot doesn’t mesh that well with the pieces that the team already has in place. It’s very possible that Washington acquires a power forward with a three-point shot in the next year or two, but it’s a lot harder to find someone who can shoot from the four spot than it is to find a small forward who can shoot and defend. His inability to create shots — he was the fifth option on an NCAA team, although in all fairness that team was completely stacked — could cause the Wizards’ offense to get bogged down very easily, especially if they don’t manage to acquire a stud shooting guard. Also, the lack of spacing that results from playing him with Wall could allow teams to pack the paint, limiting the ability of players like Nene, Booker and Seraphin to score off of post ups and cuts to the basket, which would hurt not only the team’s ability to score but also the trade value of the four big men who are already on the roster.
Even if he manages to excel at the next level and have a Richard Jefferson-esque offensive game, he still might not be ideal for the Wizards. RJ had a lot of success playing with Jason Kidd in New Jersey, and those Nets teams — elite defensive units built around a pass-first point guard and an athletic power forward — seem like a good model for the Wizards. However, those teams struggled to score and had a very good shooting guard in Kerry Kittles, who could wreak havoc not only spotting up but also constantly running around screens for quick jumpers. Also, the Nets ran a motion offense in part to mask their lack of an above average isolation player, which can be a problem against veteran teams that know how to rotate well and cover backdoor plays.
The general consensus when it comes to the lottery is to just take the best player available. However, that’s an extremely simplistic (if more often than not right) approach. Evan Turner was a highly touted player coming out of college and has shown flashes of a very interesting NBA game. However, he’s been labeled a bust at the professional level. It’s not in any way shape or form the Philadelphia 76ers’ fault that he can’t shoot. However, playing next to Andre Igoudala and Jrue Holiday as well as the 76ers’ lack of outside shooters hasn’t allowed him to play to his strengths as a ball-dominant point forward who can make plays for others. If he’d wound up playing for the Pacers or Magic, two teams that lack traditional passers at point guard and who have good shooters, he might have a reputation as an up and coming all star who can give you 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists night in and night out while playing great defense.
MKG’s fit with the Wizards wouldn’t be as poor as Turner’s with the 76ers, which is really about as bad a situation as he could have been dropped into, but it wouldn’t be very good. As great as the last month of the season was, the Wizards still aren’t a great or even good team, so their identity isn’t set in stone and no one other than Wall should be considered untouchable. However, it’s more likely than not that Kidd-Gilchrist would be spending significant amounts of time playing next to Wall and one or two big men who aren’t very good shooters, and it’s fairly unlikely that a sharp-shooting, shot-creating shooting guard winds up here any time soon.
As a result, it would be worth it to take him if he’s head and shoulders above the other players who are available, but if he’s just a little bit better than someone who would fit much better in D.C., the Wizards should pass on him and sign someone like Nicolas Batum who might be a better fit for the team.
I understand where they are coming from, but I think they’re crazy. Kobe Bryant only shot 42% his rookie season. Rajon Rondo has never been able to shoot and he’s a three-time all-star.
Every year guys get labeled as being unable to shoot, and every year some team makes a huge mistake because of it (in Rondo’s case, 20 teams made the mistake).
No player is going to be perfect. Anthony Davis isn’t 8 feet tall. Chuck Hayes wasn’t tall enough. Tayshaun Prince was to skinny. Mark Pope was to white.
Michael brings so many intangibles that can’t be measured. If the Wizards are lucky enough to find themselves in a position to draft Gilchrist, they should do it.