When the basketball gods built MKG in their lab, they didn’t intend for him to play on a losing team. He’s not Gilbert Arenas, a shot-creator content with suffering loss after loss as long as he gets his buckets. The dude was meant to win. Which is a big reason why his first year in the league was less-than-stellar; his skill set is only truly maximized when surrounded by players capable of taking advantage of the intangibles that he brings to the table.
And Charlotte was bad last year. Like, really bad. Some perspective for you: Gerald Henderson was their 2nd leading scorer, and Bismack Biyombo by far their most productive big man. The 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats, that team was not.
So, in addition to the normal NBA rookie growing pains, MKG was essentially forced to jam a square peg (his game) into a round hole (the Charlotte roster) last year. And the results were somewhat underwhelming at times. Have no fear though, because with the addition of Al Jefferson to the Hornets (?!) roster and a full-season under his belt, just about everyone expects #14 to make a big leap this year. And that includes Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated:
At worst, Kidd-Gilchrist will be what he was last season: a high-energy, spatially intelligent contributor who put up some decent numbers (12.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per 36 minutes) on a hapless team. But when given just the slightest bit of structural help, he has the potential to better harness his all-around game. That’s part of what makes Charlotte’s addition of Al Jefferson interesting, even if it doesn’t elevate the Bobcats to playoff contender. There are basketball gains to be made in Charlotte without clearing the postseason hurdle, particularly when talented, productive additions will only smooth the developmental path of Kidd-Gilchrist and many others.
The addition of Jefferson is key. He might not be Charles Barkley, but he immediately becomes the best player on Charlotte’s roster (sorry, Kemba. Facts are facts.), and his signing made MKG a very happy man:
“I’m excited to play with Al,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I don’t really know [how my game will work alongside his] yet, but I’m excited to play with him. I think everybody [in Charlotte] is.”
Playing on a team like the 2012-13 Bobcats had to be frustrating in ways that the say-no-wrong Kidd-Gilchrist would never admit, but his discussion of the coming season runs thick with optimism for a reason. The past year was a trial, and picking up Jefferson is a relief by comparison, no matter his flaws. Charlotte and Kidd-Gilchrist both will be better for having him, and one could hardly fault either for favoring those ends.
“I just want to win, man,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I just want to win basketball games and I’ll be good.”
The new-look Hornets might not win right away, but next year’s roster is enough of an improvement over the 2012-2013 team that it should provide MKG with the environment needed to make the leap that most expect of him. And that’s great news. Because watching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist play for a losing team is like looking at shirtless pictures of a tattooed Rick Pitino– it’s weird, causes nausea, and goes against the laws of nature.
Here’s hoping MKG makes that jump, and Charlotte starts finding a way to win.