The Charlotte Bobcats are ten games into their season and boast an even 5-5 record. Considering the Bobcats have only played three games with their supposed best player, center Al Jefferson, they really could not ask for anything more up to this point.
First-year head coach Steve Clifford has done a great job instilling his tough defensive principles on the young Charlotte team, as the ‘Cats rank 4th in points allowed so far this season. However, there is one thing Clifford is not doing that could significantly improve his team’s performance – play second year small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist more minutes.
Last season, MKG averaged only 26 minutes per game in 77 starts. For a rookie who has offensive limitations, 26 minutes was fine. This season the former number two overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft has only seen his minutes bump up by a slight margin – averaging 28.9 minutes per game.
While Kidd-Gilchrist does still have some problems on the offensive end of the court, his defensive abilities far outweigh what he might be giving up on offensively. There have already been multiple occasions this year where Kidd-Gilchrist has severely limited an opposing team’s best player.
On November 5th in Madison Square Garden, MKG went toe-to-toe with New York Knicks’ superstar Carmelo Anthony and was clearly frustrating one of the best scorers in the NBA, as the Bobcats beat the Knicks 102-97.
Not only is Kidd-Gilchrist the most valuable defensive player for Charlotte, but he has also improved his offensive game to a certain extent. Through ten games, MKG is shooting 56 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free throw line. Overall, Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 19.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per 48 minutes played.
Not many second year small forwards at the age of 20 can push 20 points and 10 rebounds for every 48 minutes played. If MKG keeps up this offensive numbers, along with him being the best defensive player Charlotte has to offer, there is no reason he should not average 32-35 minutes per game.
Up to this point, Kidd-Gilchrist has only played over 30 minutes in a game four times, something he did 23 different times as a rookie.
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Versatility is yet another reason why MKG should see an increase in minutes too. When going with a small lineup, Kidd-Gilchrist could easily play the “4” at times, as opposing players are shooting less than 40% when trying to post-up the small forward.
Also, backup small forward Jeffery Taylor has the capabilities to play the “2” alongside MKG, giving the Bobcats extreme athleticism on the wing when both are on the court at the same time.
Of course, this suggestion is only recommending Kidd-Gilchrist playing five or six more minutes a night, as Charlotte does not want to run their young playmaker into the ground so early in his career. However, the front office has made it clear they want to win and they want to win now. That was evident when they signed Jefferson to a $41 million contract this offseason.
These added minutes will help the Bobcats on both ends of the floor in close games leading to more wins, while also expediting Kidd-Gilchrist’s skill progression and advancement in the NBA.
As his jump shot keeps improving, MKG will have the chance to be an NBA all-star someday and there is no reason the Charlotte Bobcats should not play someone with that much talent at least 32 minutes a game.
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