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2019-20 Player Preview: Michael Kidd Gilchrist

It’s hard to believe that this is already Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s eighth season in the NBA. Despite the fact that he’s considered more of a veteran compared to most of the guys on the roster, we’re still unsure of what his role is going to be on this team for the upcoming season.

For just about the entirety of his career in Charlotte, MKG has had pretty much played the same role. Play good on-ball and off-ball defense, be a threat in transition, make the hustle plays, and anything you do on offense is extra. That formula worked fine when he was still considered a young player, but as time has gone on and better players have left, it would be expected that it’s now time to step into a bigger role.

However, if you look at last season, that doesn’t seem like it’ll be the case. In MKG’s first seven seasons, he always averaged between 24-29 minutes a game, and with the exception of one season, had always taken at least seven shots a game and averaged at least nine points a game. Last season, the former Kentucky man was taken out of the starting line up. 

Coach James Borrego clearly felt that MKG’s niche role was more suited for spot play off the bench. It’s not for a lack of trying on his part. To his credit, we’ve all seen that MKG has attempted to expand his game. It doesn’t sound like much, but last season he was shooting and making about 3 three’s out of 7 attempts every 10 games or so, far higher rate than any other full season he had played. The big issue is that his FG% in the midrange game dropped drastically after he had improved in that area the two seasons prior. Even when he does take those midrange and three point shots, it rarely happens in the flow of the game.

An interesting thing about MKG is that over the course of his Hornets/Bobcats career, the team has been better when he’s on the court vs. when he’s off the court. That speaks to his ability to do those little things and play his role well, but that’s another issu. More often than not, those guys who “do the little things” and, as I previously mentioned, have a “niche” role tend to be more effective around better players that can help hide their weaknesses and allow them to focus on their strengths. It’s not that the Hornets have had any “great” teams since 2012, but talented offensive players like Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson, and even a Gerald Henderson may have played a role in helping MKG be able to play like that. 

That’s not the Hornets anymore. Kemba Walker is gone and the team has a lot of question marks. We can take gusses, but we don’t know who will be the best player or top scorer. Reality is, the majority of the team is neither head and shoulder above nor below the rest of the team. With that being the case, I honestly don’t know how effective MKG’s role will be. 

He doesn’t either. At Hornets media day on Monday he said he “wasn’t sure” where he fits with the young guys, and that Borrego hasn’t told him either. This is the last year of his contract, and I just don’t see him coming back.

I think MKG’s playing time and numbers will be similar to last season with maybe a slight dip, but it feels like his role would be best maximized on a team like Toronto where’d he would only need to worry about being himself.

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