Since being drafted second by the Charlotte Hornets back in 2012, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has struggled to find his groove in the NBA. MKG’s awkward jump shot has prevented him from living up to the expectations set for him after a year at Kentucky, but new Hornets head coach James Borrego may have found the solution.
This season, MKG is playing the five spot ala Draymond Green and, as The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks writes, is flourishing:
Kidd-Gilchrist is an excellent screener, cutter, rebounder, and interior defender, and he has the tools to be a small-ball 5. He’s about the same size (6-foot-7 and 232 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan) as Draymond (6-foot-7 and 230 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan). Both are built like NFL linebackers, with a thick chest, strong hands, and quick feet. MKG has the same combination of athleticism, tenacity, and basketball IQ that allows Green to bang with bigger players inside and rotate quickly as a help-side defender.
Borrego, still experimenting with his new team after five games, has found something with Kidd-Gilchrist at the 5. The Hornets have a net rating of plus-20.9 in the 36 minutes where he has played without any of their traditional big men (Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, and Bismack Biyombo). It’s much higher than his net rating (minus-13.4 in 59 minutes) when he plays next to Hernangomez on the second unit. While lineup numbers don’t mean much by themselves at this point in the season, MKG’s role makes more sense in the former lineup.
Playing closer to the basket lets MKG focus more on his strengths (finishing at the rim, rebounding, defense) rather than his weaknesses (shooting). The move helps Charlotte, too. So far, having MKG in the middle is more efficient than their other post options and gives wing players like Jeremy Lamb, Malik Monk, and Miles Bridges more space on the perimeter to do their thing.
We’re only five games in to the season, but hopefully MKG has finally found the right fit.