Cavs Draft Preview: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

In the days leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft I will be previewing potential picks for the Cavaliers at #4. Yesterday I previewed Bradley Beal. Today’s prospect is Kentucky wing man Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: SF, Kentucky

  • Height: 6’7″/Weight: 230 Lbs./Wingspan: 7’/Vertical: 35.5 in.
  • 31.1 minutes per game as a freshman
  • 11.9 ppg/7.4 rpg/1.9 apg
  • 53.5 2pt%/25.5 3pt%/74.5 ft%
  • Best Case Scenario: Andre Igoudala
  • Worst Case Scenario: Julian Wright
  • Most Likely Scenario: Tony Allen or Trevor Ariza

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a phenomenal basketball player. He’s wildly athletic, long, and has a motor that just won’t quit. That’s why it’s so easy to fall in love with MKG. You look at him and how he plays the game and you realize there’s a lot to like there. Unfortunately, there is a downside that has to be taken into account with a player like Kidd-Gilchrist when you’re thinking about possibly taking him in the top five.

For starters, Kidd-Gilchrsit has yet to develop a reliable jump shot. Instead, he relies primarily on his superior size and athletic ability to get to the basket and score in transition. His superior speed and athletic ability allowed him to get from end to end faster than almost anyone else in college basketball. In half court sets, MKG relied primarily on offensive rebounds and cuts to the basket. He struggled to create his own shot at times thanks to less than impressive ball handling skills. He was also awful from three-point territory as his 25% shooting percentage will attest.

This is problematic for two reasons. First, in the NBA MKG won’t be able to rely on superior athletic ability alone. He’ll be going up against elite defenders such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or even Andre Igoudala. Those players aren’t simply going to allow MKG to beat them off of the dribble. They will dare him to shoot until he proves he can make a jumper on a consistent basis. Second, MKG shot 25% from the college three-point line. How will he handle the pro three-point line which is even further away?

All of that aside, there is still a lot more to like about Kidd-Gilchrist than there is to not like. His work ethic and desire to get better have to be factored in. In fact, since the end of the college season, Kidd-Gilchrist has done nothing but work on his game and shoot jumpers for hours on end. It’s this desire to get better along with his reputation for being a leader that will best serve him as he makes the leap to the NBA.

The main part of Kidd-Gilchrist’s game that will translate nicely to the NBA is his ability to defend. Thanks to his size and athleticism, MKG has the ability to guard the 1, 2, and 3 positions as well as some 4’s. Every team needs a lock down defender and for the Cavs, MKG could be it. But again, will his offensive game ever be able to catch up to his defensive game? If you believe it can, then MKG might very well be worth the #4 pick in the draft.

In a perfect world, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist most likely fits the mold of Andre Igoudala; elite athletic ability with an ability to rise and throw it down with authority. When his jumper is on he’ll be able to fill it up with the best of them and when it’s not… look out. He’ll probably never be a franchise guy, but he could definitely be a solid #2 option.

A worst case scenario for MKG is Julian Wright. Wright was drafted 13th overall in 2007 by the Hornets thanks to a combination of length, athletic ability, and ability to defend. Does any of that sound familiar. Unfortunately, Wright was never able to put it all together and as a result has become nothing more than a role player on a bad Toronto team. Of course, Wright also had issues in terms of work ethic, something not believed to be a problem for Kidd-Gilchrist.

More than likely, Kidd-Gilchrist will fall somewhere in the middle. If his jump shot never completely develops, he might make a career as a lock down defender and rebounder in the mold of Tony Allen or Trevor Ariza. He’s not going to wow you on the offensive end, but you can put him on the other team’s best player for 35 minutes and not have to worry. Again, that’s the type of player any team could use.

So will the Cavs take MKG at #4. With everything that’s been said of late, it’s definitely a possibility. He was projected to go #2 early on in the draft process, but after the combine and pre-draft workouts the #2 spot appears to be Bradley Beal’s to lose. With their recent acquisition of Trevor Ariza, Washington doesn’t look to be in the mix for MKG. That would allow him to fall to #4 and be there for the Cavs to take. Will they pull the trigger? They aren’t saying so it looks like we’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out.

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