Better Know a Prospect: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF - Kentucky

Apr 2, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Anthony Davis (23) celebrates with forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) after defeating the Kansas Jayhawks 67-59 in the finals of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball Final Four at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

To help prepare the At the Hive community to make informed choices when creating our draft board, we are rekindling our long-dormant award-eligible series, "Better Know a Prospect." First up today is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a key part of the Kentucky Wildcats championship team.

As a frame of reference for reading this guide, we can use two lenses to analyze Kidd-Gilchrist (MKG, as the kids like to call him). We'll call one the "Brian" lens, and one the "Rohan" lens, for no reason besides fact that these correlate exactly to our personal opinions.

Brian lens: MKG is a superlative athlete who, thanks to his unique combination of size, speed, and strength, can effectively defend three positions. He will likely be an elite NBA defender. On the offensive end, he is excellent in transition and can drive to the basket and get easy looks. Moreover, he has a knack for nabbing offensive boards.

Rohan lens: MKG can't shoot. He makes 26% of his three-pointers, lacks a strong mid-range game, and his shot form looks like this. Combine his terrible shot with his mediocre ball-handling skills, and being the second best player on a good team is a good estimate for MKG's ceiling.

Biography:

Born Michael Gilchrist in September of 1993, he is the youngest player available in this year's draft by a wide margin. More remarkable, though, is his life story - it's made for a sepia-toned halftime special. When MKG was just three years old, his father was shot multiple times in his 1995 Hyundai Elantra. The elder Michael Gilchrist was pushed out of the car and left to die while the car was taken. Until he was three, the younger Michael Kidd-Gilchrist watched The Lion King almost every day with his father, and ever since his father's passing he has watched the movie at least every week. Darrin Kidd, MKG's uncle, helped fill the void left by his father's passing. After MKG committed to Kentucky, he announced that he was changing his surname to Kidd-Gilchrist in honor of his uncle.

At Kentucky, he immediately stepped into a role as a team leader. He encouraged a group of teammates to join him at 8:30 in the morning to stretch, work out, shoot, and eat breakfast before morning practices. It became known as the Breakfast Club. MKG's work ethic and leadership skills earn high marks from everybody who meets him - when you read about him, the word that keeps coming up is "winner".

Offensive Skills:

MKG's offensive game starts in transition - he makes 71% of his fast break field goals according to Synergy Sports, best among draft prospects. His combination of quickness, size, and strength make him a fearsome attacker on the break. His other significant strength is offensive rebounding. His success on the boards doesn't appear to be due to great positioning or striking length - it's just that he seems to fight harder than anybody else for the offensive board. Surpisingly2, Kidd-Gilchrist had the second most offensive rebounds on Kentucky's team last year, trailing only Anthony Davis.

In the half-court, his game needs improvement. Tellingly, MKG took the lowest percentage of shots of any player in the Kentucky rotation (18.6%, according to Ken Pomeroy). He attacks the basket mainly with quickness and power, something that was effective in college, but likely won't be enough in the NBA. His ball-handling isn't good enough to allow him to create off the dribble consistently. Moreover, his shot form is suboptimal. I linked to a video of his Kentucky workout above so you can see it for yourself. He seems to bring the ball up straight, pausing before he shoots, moving the ball slightly to his left, and then releasing. It's a shot that needs work, but if anybody can improve his shooting form, you'd think it would be the 19 year old with a legendary work ethic.

Behold, a video that shows all the facets of MKG's game, displayed in one contest against North Carolina.

Defensive skills:

At Kentucky, MKG was called on to defend every position from point guard to power forward, often times in the same game. On occasion he would even have to rotate to cover a center, thanks to Anthony Davis's predilection to switch onto perimeter players. His athleticism, versatility, and hustle makes him an elite defender. I imagine him being an outstanding pick and roll defender - his size and lateral quickness will allow him to switch between players with relative ease. MKG can also defend the rim - he averaged almost a block per game, and formed a fearsome shot-blocking trio along with Davis and Terrence Jones.

Bottom line:

MKG is an athletic specimen, able to make a difference at both ends of the floor and especially in transition. However, his ceiling may be limited due to his lack of offensive polish. What say you, At the Hive commentariat - do you agree more with the Brian lens or the Rohan lens? Let's hash it out in the comments.

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