After 8 seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats and Hornets, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Eight seasons is a long time, but there are still a lot of unknowns with Kidd-Gilchrist.
Questions about his shooting and upside have lingered over his NBA career. Now that he’s part of a new team, those questions are at the forefront once again.
So what exactly does ‘MKG’ bring to the Mavs? How does he fit with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis? Is there some hidden talent the Mavericks can unlock to make this a low-risk high-reward move? And what the heck is up with his jump shot?
I dug into the analytics, talked to former Mavericks’ Player Development Coach, Mike Procopio, and watched more Charlotte Hornets film than I ever thought I would in my life.
Here’s what Mavs fans need to know about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s Strengths and Weaknesses
The first thing that stood out to me was how many people mentioned his high motor and excellent work ethic. John Calipari, Michael’s coach at the University of Kentucky put it this way:
John Calipari, Head Coach University of Kentucky
There are stories of Michael waking up at 5 am for a 2-hour commute in high school, and his Breakfast Club that he started in college for teammates to eat breakfast and workout at 6 am before going to class at 8.
If you’re worried about if he’ll stay focused and work hard, don’t be.
But there’s more to being a good basketball player than hard work. What can he do on the court?
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is known for defense. In the 2018-2019 season, he had a Defensive Rating of 107.4. That was 91st among players who appeared in more than 60 games and averaged more than 15 minutes per game. For context, here’s a list of players in the same range:
- Kawhi Leonard: 107.7
- Marcus Smart: 106.7
- Al Horford: 106.4
- DeMarre Carroll: 106.2
Michael came off the bench in the 2019 season. His last season as a starter was in 2017-2018. In that season, he had a Defensive Rating of 107.2, still pretty good.
In 2018-2019, opponents shot below 39% in the paint against Kidd-Gilchrist and 35% on above-the-break 3-pointers. That’s right along with defensive stoppers like Danny Green, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marc Gasol, and Andre Iguodala.
Those numbers weren’t quite as good in the 2017-2018 season when he was a starter. But his versatility as a defender is still valuable. Mike Procopio described Kidd-Gilchrist as “a veteran who plays hard,” and said, “You can put him at 4 and 5, especially when you switch those 1-5 pick and rolls. He’s a physical forward that can guard some of the more physical wings in the league.”
Overall, opponents’ field goal percentage dropped 2.7% against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the 2019 season.
In this next video, look at the way he defends Russell Westbrook. He’s aggressive and committed, and moves his feet well.
So yeah, he’s a good defender. He’s not a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but he’s instantly one of the Mavericks’ best wing defenders. And you need those. Dorian Finney-Smith can’t be on the court all the time. Procopio put it this way: “Dorian is a high level defender that can guard probably 90 percent of the players at his position. There are times where Dorian needs help physically on a LeBron, Greek Freak, Kawhi where [Michael Kidd-Gilchrist] can help for a minute or two.”
- Al Horford: 11.3%
- Draymond Green: 11.2%
- Kawhi Leonard: 10.6%
- Maxi Kleber: 10.3%
- Paul George: 10.1%
- Dorian Finney-Smith: 9.2%
Again, that’s coming off the bench. That number as a starter was lower, at 7.9% in the 2018 season.
|Defensive Rating||107.2||S. Ibaka: 106.1|
G. Antetokounmpo: 106.5
J. Harden: 106.2
C. Anthony: 106.4
|107.4||D. Carroll: 106.2|
A. Horford: 106.4
M. Smart: 106.7
K. Leonard: 107.7
|Rebound %||7.9||R. Covington: 8.2|
P. George: 7.6
K. Middleton: 7.6
|9.8||Dr. Green: 11.2|
K. Leonard: 10.6
P. George: 10.1
D. Finney-Smith: 9.2
|Opponent in the Paint||43%||N. Batum: 43%|
D. Cousins: 42.9%
P. Beverley: 42.9%
D. Smith Jr.: 43.1%
|38.6%||J. Embiid: 38.8%|
Da. Green: 38.7%
M. Conley: 38.6%
B. Beal: 38.2%
|Opponent Above the Break 3||37.4%||G. Hill: 37.2%|
N. Batum: 37.9%
P. Beverley: 37.8%
|35.1%||J. Grant: 35.1%|
A. Iguodala: 35.1%
G. Antetokounmpo: 35.3%
When people talk about Kidd-Gilchrist’s offensive game, they usually bring up his shooting form. But there’s actually a lot more to him than that.
Kidd-Gilchrist moves without the ball very well. He knows when to cut to the basket, where to be, and what angle to use when slashing. He’s also athletic and strong, so he can finish through contact. He made 58% of his shots in the restricted area in 2019.
He’s not an elite slasher, but he’s capable.
For example, in 2018, he averaged 1.32 points per possession as a cutter. That’s less than Dorian Finney-Smith’s 1.42 PPP this season. That’s one reason why Dorian is a consistent starter. Michael’s efficiency as a cutter is around what guys like Delon Wright, Maxi Kleber, and Dwight Powell are doing for the Mavs. Those guys are good, but Maxi and Delon don’t usually start and their minutes fluctuate.
This next video shows highlights from a game where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored a career-high 25 points (against the Mavericks, ironically). You’ll see how he moves without the ball and puts himself in the right position for a pass and easy shot. You’ll also see his skill in transition.
I imagine the Mavericks will hone in on that skill, rather than forcing him to do things he’s not good at.
I think the Hornets could have done a better job of that. In 2019, 128 of his 332 shot attempts were jumps shots. He had 13 dunk attempts and one alley-oop attempt. His most efficient shot was a cutting layup, but he attempted only 15 of those.
He’s not out there to score, but he is capable of getting some easy shots for the offense.
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So…yeah. Let’s talk about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting form.
Here’s the thing: He has bad form. We’ve all seen it. It’s out there. It’s a reality.
BUT…his form has actually improved.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t led to better shooting. (His 3-point shooting started at 22% as a rookie and is at 29% this year, though his attempts are at career-high 1.4 per game.) But he has put in some work.
Take a look at the video breakdown below. This is a small compilation of jump shots from the current season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Jump Shot Form 2019-2020 Season
As you can see, it’s not as bad as it used to be.
One advantage the Mavericks have is their shooting coach, Peter Patton. He’s considered one of the best in the league. He helped Dorian Finney-Smith improve his 3-point shooting from 29% to 38% – in less than two seasons.
Are the Mavericks planning on grooming Kidd-Gilchrist to be a “3-and-D” guy, a la Dorian Finney-Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu before him?
It might be too late for that. Dorian began training with the Mavs early in his career and Aminu came here in his fifth season. Kidd-Gilchrist is eight seasons into his career.
It’s possible that the Mavs see him as a two-year project. It’s also possible that they realize he’s not a good shooter and want to use him in other ways. More on that later.
Either way, Mike Procopio says Mavs fans shouldn’t expect anything dramatic this year. “It will take 12-15 months to retool that shot, especially since they are in-season now and it’s so hard to do that while the season is in full swing.”
Overall Skill Level
While doing research, one phrase came up over and over:
Jack of all trades. Master of none.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a good defender. He’s a decent rebounder. He’s a pretty good slasher. He’s not a good shooter. And for all of his assets, he has career averages of 8.6 points and 5.5 rebounds.
So he’s not number-two-overall-pick material. Let’s just all accept that.
But does he have a place in the NBA? Does he have a place on the Dallas Mavericks?
How Does Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Fit On the Mavericks?
I think there are two roles Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could potentially fill on the Mavericks: the Dwight Powell Rim-Runner role or the Draymond Green Versatile Defender role. He has the ability to do both.
Option 1: Dwight Powell Fill-In
Consider his similarities to Dwight Powell.
He’s athletic and gets to the right spot without the ball, but isn’t a great shooter.
That description fits Dwight Powell just as much as it fits Kidd-Gilchrist.
The most obvious difference between the two is their size. Dwight Powell is 6’10 and Michael Kidd Gilchrist is 6’6. But when you compare their overall size and athleticism, the similarities are clear.
Dwight Powell has a 7’.5 wingspan. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a 7’ wingspan. Powell’s standing reach is 8’9, Kidd-Gilchrist’s is 8’8.5. Dwight’s max vertical at the 2014 draft combine was 35’. Michael’s max vertical in the 2012 draft combine was 35’.5. Even their hands are the same size.
Draft Combine Measurements – Dwight Powell vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
|Height w/o Shoes||Height w/ Shoes||Wingspan||Standing Reach||Hand Length||Hand Width||Max Vertical|
|Dwight Powell||6′ 9.5”||6′ 11”||7′ .5”||8′ 9”||9”||9.25”||35’|
|Michael Kidd-Gilchrist||6′ 5.75″||6′ 7.5″||7′ 0″||8′ 8.5″||9”||10”||35’ .5”|
His game is similar to Dwight Powell in other ways. Dwight Powell has never been a prolific shooter from the outside. He’s averaged less than 1 3-point attempt per game for his career and made 29 percent of those. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has averaged .2 3-point attempts per game and made 28 percent of them.
But Michael hasn’t been as effective as a roll-man as Dwight Powell has been. In the 2018-2019 season, MKG averaged .67 PPP as the roll-man in a pick-and-roll. Dwight Powell averaged 1.33. However, Kidd-Gilchrist averaged only .3 shots attempts per game from that playtype. Perhaps the Mavs see the ability for him to be effective there.
But there’s another possible role for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Option 2: The Next Draymond Green?
The Hornets had started using Kidd-Gilchrist as a center instead of a wing. Rather than forcing him into the classic Tony Allen role, they tried him in the Draymond Green role – a big man who can defend any position, make smart plays with the ball, and occasionally shoot.
Coming out of college, scouts compared Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Andre Iguodala and Gerald Wallace. Will the Mavericks try to form Kidd-Gilchrist into the Draymond Green/Andre Iguodala/Gerald Wallace mold? It’s possible.
He has the defensive tools. He has the ability to make some plays with the ball. Those other guys aren’t great shooters, but they had some good seasons and could hit big shots when needed. Could Michael get his jumper to a respectable number like those players did?
Given the opportunity, coaching, and confidence, he could get there. When talking about the possibilities, Mike Procopio said, “I think form, confidence, and injury has a lot to do with it. MKG has never really shot it well and has never been given the green light to do so. Dorian struggled with his shot but Peter got to him year 3 and [he] was encouraged to shoot, had a good support system around him, and now is on his way to probably a number eclipsing 40% from 3. The Mavs value shooting as much as anyone, and if they invest 2 years I think they can get him to the low to mid 30’s on the shot. Plus Casey Smith is the best in the league with keeping players healthy.”
The bottom line is it’s a low-risk play. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist signed a 1-year $810,763 deal with the Dallas Mavericks. If it works out, they can resign him this summer on what will probably be a team-friendly deal. I can’t imagine a lot of teams are clamoring for his services. If it doesn’t work out, they spent less than a million dollars and got 3-4 months of a good guy that won’t cause problems in the locker room.
The Mavericks have a good history with so-called Reclamation Projects. Yogi Ferrell, Charlie Villanueva, Monta Ellis, and Brandan Wright are guys that had been cast aside, forgotten, or given up on. Rick Carlisle found a way to unlock their skills and he put them in a position to succeed.
It’s possible Michael Kidd-Gilchrist won’t even be a Dallas Maverick next season. It’s possible they found their own Draymond Green.