After a fractured left hand caused Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to miss six weeks of action, his return hasn’t been unnoticed around the NBA. Many of us rarely hear about MKG’s performance on a nightly basis, well for obvious reasons. Kidd-Gilchrist isn’t an elite scorer, and we knew that throughout the 2011-2012 season. Where his game really shines is on the opposite end of the court. His high energy and lockdown defense earned him his spot as the #2 overall draft selection, owned by the soon to be Charlotte Hornets. While many analysts were quick to label him a bust after his mediocre rookie season, they seem to be changing their minds as MKG’s true presence both on and off the court are beginning to show.
With MKG sidelined for 19 games, the Bobcats seemed to be slipping out of playoff contention very quickly. Before Kidd-Gilchrist was injured, Charlotte found themselves holding the 6th seed in the Eastern conference. Upon his return, they had fallen to the last playoff spot after a 8-2 stretch, one game away from going back into the draft lottery. Along with MKG, fellow swingman Jeffery Taylor suffered a season ending injury, leaving the Bobcats without an athletic small forward. Since Kidd-Gilchrist has been back, Charlotte has won 3 of their last 5 games looking ahead with the hopes of becoming a playoff team. That begins another debate, whether the Bobcats should tank and go for another talent in this year’s all-star draft class, or roll the dice and fight for a playoff spot. But for the sake of MKG, his stock is rising in the NBA. He’s only averaging 5.8 points per game since his return, however, it is MKG’s defensive presence that has allowed Charlotte to put some more checks in the win column.
The following video is every defensive possession where Kidd-Gilchrist guarded one of the NBA’s elite scorers, Carmelo Anthony. On the night, Anthony scored 20 points total, but only 4 of them occurred while MKG was up in his face. GM’s take notice of this type of high energy play, and Charlotte has been quick to decline any trade rumors involving Kidd-Gilchrist. When asked about MKG’s performance after his return, Charlotte’s head coach Steve Clifford had this to say:
“You can see value of having a guy like Kidd-Gilchrist. People don’t always understand the energy and intensity and those kinds of things. Those are skills…He’s our middle linebacker.”
You also can’t deny his athleticism on offense. While MKG has been working on his mid-range jumper, one aspect of his game has definitely gotten better. His slams, with authority!