Thursday, June 28, 2012

Memphis Grizzlies Draft 2012: The Case for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Before delving into my analysis, it must be noted that the Grizzlies only currently have the #25 pick in the draft. However, it is my sincere hope that they make the proper bid for a player that perfectly suits their organization.

The Grizzlies management and ownership has attempted to construct a team built on toughness, hustle, and grind-it-out defense. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist embodies all of these qualities. At St. Patrick's, MKG (as he is widely known these days) functioned as a second line of defense behind his squad's high octane guard lineup. He blocked shots and rebounded against some of the top players in the country night in and night out. And, his hustle and focus paid dividends, as his St. Patrick's team finished with a 26-1 record during his junior year. Also, who can forget that MKG was a huge part of Kentucky's NCAA Championship run.

After playing almost exclusively in the post at St. Patrick's, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did an excellent job of transitioning to the wing during his only season of college basketball. While his handle is still a work in progress at this stage, he is able to weave to the basket and create opportunities for himself in halfcourt sets as well as on the fastbreak. Overall, he was fairly efficient from the field in his only season of college basketball. He posted an Offensive Rating of 111.4, good for 7th amongst players used on at least 20% of their team's possessions and 17th amongst all players in the conference. He got to the basket regularly and did an excellent job of finishing through contact. He finished with a True Shooting Percentage (a statistic which encompasses one's performance on free throw shooting as well as one's field goal attempts) of 57.0%, which was the 17th best in the SEC last year. When attacking the basket, Kidd-Gilchrist got to the line early and often, finishing with 192 Free throw attempts last season. His Free Throw Rate, which measures one's ability to get to the line relative to his total field goal attempts, was 58.9%, which was the 96th best nationally. As a point of comparison, an older Derrick Rose posted a 47.0% FT Rate in 2007. And while this differential can be explained away by the fact that MKG rarely took many outside jumpers, he does compare favorable to Rose drawing 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes compared to Rose's 5.3. Given the fact that MKG is criticized for his handle, this is a remarkable feat.

Aside from his penchant for attacking the basket, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a very good rebounding wing. While he averaged over 10 rebounds per game in high school against some of the top flight competition in the country, this figure should only supplement what he demonstrated at Kentucky. There he posted a Defensive Rebounding % of 16.1%, the third highest for a UK player and the 20th best in the SEC. He had the 17th best Offensive Rebounding % in the SEC at 10.2% as well. While this may not appear to be all that impressive from a cursory glance, one must consider the circumstances which he was playing under. MKG regularly defended the opposition's toughest guards and was forced to get back out with his transition defense. His motor was constantly running, yet he managed to post some of the better rebounding percentages in his conference (relative to height) given the fact that he played alongside star rebounders Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones. It is likely that this ability will translate at the next level and he will be a very good rebounding three. With regard to the Grizzlies, he would likely be able to complement Randolph and Marc Gasol when they step out for perimeter jumpers.

In terms of his shooting stroke, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's slingshot motion can definitely use some work at the next level. While he generally keeps a straight arm on his shot, he tends to move his arms from left to right on his shooting motion. This makes it more difficult for him to square his body when shooting, as he is adjusting his arm motion to be in his field of vision. When he does finally line the ball up, he is already at the bottom of his jump, causing him to miss short at times. This description really accounts for the hitch in his shot, which will need to be corrected at the next level in order to improve the consistency on his long range jumper and extend his range. The further back he is forced to shoot, the more difficult a time he will have squaring his body given his shooting motion. His shooting stroke is certainly correctable, and with the help of a professional shooting coach, MKG will likely develop a serviceable jumper in the future.

MKG can also function as a post up player. While he did not receive as many possessions in the post during his time at Kentucky, MKG would be effective in Grizzlies sets as a post up wing player. Not only is he powerful on the block, but he is acrobatic at contorting his body and scoring past the outstretched arms of defenders. In his high school matchup with Joe Jackson's Memphis squad, MKG connected on the game winning basket after moving his arms and body to a nearly horizontal position. MKG also has good footwork in the post and a serviceable go-to jump hook shot, which he can get whenever he wants against NBA small forwards.

In terms of his passing ability, MKG is a sneaky passer who makes the right plays, but does not always look for the hockey assist. At Kentucky, he regularly kicked the ball out to open shooters and made some nifty passes inside to Anthony Davis when the opportunity presented itself. He is not quite a point forward, as his Assist Rate was only average (37th best in the SEC), but UK rarely ran the ball through his hands and thus did not really enable him to distribute the ball on a regular basis.

The defensive end is MKG's bread and butter. Not only does he possess very good lateral quickness, but he has the intelligence and court awareness to prevent easy baskets. Against Kansas in their Championship matchup, MKG was assigned with the responsibility of guarding high octane point guard Tyshawn Taylor. And, while Taylor was able to score against him in the 2nd half, MKG did a good job of contesting without fouling and limiting him in transition. On the season, MKG's 3.12 Fouls Committed Per 40 Minutes were high but reasonable for a player forced to guard the opposing team's best offensive option. Also, Kansas's Taylor had end to end speed of 5 seconds throughout the game and MKG was right there with him defensively. Another underrated aspect of Gilchrist's defensive game is his ability to lead his man into the shot blocker. On the season, he usually had good awareness of Anthony Davis's presence on the floor and usually led his offensive man right into Davis's outstretched hand. Further, Gilchrist studied player tendencies and forced them into uncomfortable shots, making them drive left when they are right handed, and vice versa. At this stage, it is likely that Gilchrist is versatile enough to at least play spot minutes guarding the 1-4 in the NBA. Statistically, he was effective but not remarkable with 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per 40 minutes.

In terms of the Memphis Grizzlies' needs, Gilchrist has the versatility to guard many positions in the NBA. This would allow him to be a part of many unique lineups. Further, his ability to attack the basket would further help the Grizzlies in their halfcourt sets, particularly when they go through long stretches where they are unable to get to the line. Additionally, MKG's ability to attack out in transition fits with Grizzlies personnel who want to get out and push the pace. Mike Conley is one of the quicker guards in the NBA, and he would enjoy playing alongside someone with the intensity and effort level of a MKG. Further, Gilchrist's work ethic is the best in the draft, and he will have a chance to become an allstar one day if he can improve on his paltry 3 point shooting (25.5%). Overall, MKG is a revelation at his age, and his transition to the guard position has been remarkable so far. In a couple of years, he could develop into the best player in this draft class if he puts the requisite time and effort in.

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1 comment:

  1. With a little effort can succeed Grizzlies, MKG and Coley are hoping.