At this point of his career, it’s safe to say that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is trending in the direction of being a bust.
Spending five years with the Charlotte Hornets, the 6’7” small forward has averaged 9.1 points and 6.4 rebounds over 27.1 minutes. Since he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, those numbers are underwhelming, even though he is best known for his lockdown defense and team-centric mentality.
Last season, the former University of Kentucky star averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 29.0 minutes per game over a career-high 81 regular-season contests played. He shot 47.7 percent from the field and went just 1-for-9 from three-point range, proving his offensive limitations.
Despite his inability to make a positive impact on the offensive end of the court, Hornets coach Steve Clifford has complete faith in Kidd-Gilchrist. "I think he's going to have a great year," the coach told the Associated Press on Friday.
He also said that pure shooting ability and spacing "is not as important as being competitive, it's not as important as character, and it's not as important as just natural talent. He is a talented athlete, he has a feel for the game, and he's a tough guy who cares about the team.”
In what could end up being a wide-open Eastern Conference, the Hornets will boast a talented starting lineup, where Kidd-Gilchrist will remain at small forward.
"We have enough offense with him on the floor that we can be fine offensively," Clifford said. "...It's easy to look at guy who is not a range shooter and say he doesn't belong in today's NBA game. But if you can't guard your guy in this league -- and I'm talking about blow-by, being two small, not physical enough, not wanting to put any (effort) into it -- you better be 28 or 29 (points per game) or it's very difficult for your team to win."
This offseason, the team acquired center Dwight Howard and will also feature All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, two-way wing Nicolas Batum and versatile forward Marvin Williams. Last year’s starting center Cody Zeller should log major minutes at the four and five off the bench while the duo of Michael Carter-Williams and rookie Malik Monk should also play major roles after returning from their respective injuries.
Kidd-Gilchrist is due to make $13 million in each of the next three seasons. Therefore, in the current landscape, he could end up being a major bargain if he can add to the skill set that he’s shown so far in the first five years of his career.