Apr 2, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Thomas Robinson (left) and guard Travis Releford (24) battle for a loose ball with Kentucky Wildcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during the first half in the finals of the 2012 NCAA men
There aren’t many basketball players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Unlike many players, though, Gilchrist isn’t simply an incredibly gifted athlete without any semblance of substance. Gilchrist is blessed with size, speed, strength and prototypical length, sure, but where he really differentiates himself from his peers is in his unparalleled work ethic. Gilchrist is the consummate pro in that sense. He isn’t happy with merely succeeding; he has a burning desire to excel.
What other 19-year-old immediately buys his mom a new car with his endorsement money? How many 19-year-olds miss the NBA Combine because they are working out at the wrong gym and not because they are secure with their respective draft position? Who can legitimately claim to put in the time during the season, as early as 6:30 AM? Gilchrist can. In his Kentucky days, Gilchrist was notorious for creating the “Breakfast Club” during Christmas break in a desperate attempt to get his teammates engaged with one another for weightlifting and shooting sessions in the early morning.
Gilchrist seems to be cognizant of his abilities and situation. The odds are very high — Chad Ford has Charlotte selecting Gilchrist with the No. 2 overall pick in his latest mock (Insider) and Scott Howard-Cooper has Cleveland selecting him at No. 4 — that he enters a tenuous situation with an inherently flawed team and little mobility in the NBA hierarchy.
He’s not equipped to losing a lot of games but he accepts this as part of his development, though it will take an inevitable adjustment period.
“I might cry some nights,” Gilchrist said. “I just hate losing games.”
His passion to win is refreshing in an era where basketball players don’t always seem to value winning as highly as they should. Now that I’ve waxed poetically on why I love his attitude, I should delve into why, specifically, he would be a perfect for the San Antonio Spurs. Ignoring, of course, the fact that San Antonio has only one pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the No. 59 overall pick. Just play along (please).
As you would expect, Gilchrist isn’t physically developed nor is he polished enough offensively to combat the talented defenders he will face in the NBA. He’s only 19-years-old. Draft Express noted that his perimeter shooting — 25.5% shooting from behind the college arc isn’t exactly impressive — and inability to create his own shot efficiently could set him back in the NBA.
But those very weaknesses should jog the memories of Spurs fans. Remember Kawhi Leonard? I’m sure you have heard of him. In his rookie year, Leonard earned first-team All Rookie recognition despite being classified as a one-dimensional player.
Leonard didn’t succumb to the general perception. Instead, Kawhi worked on his lagging shot with shooting coach Chip Engelland. You shouldn’t expect immediate results from a rookie, but Leonard did make a significant improvement, his 3-point percentage jumped from 25% in college to 37.6% in the NBA. It should be noted that the NBA 3-pointer is farther from the hoop by about four feet.
What they bring to a basketball team is very similar (I’ll just venture a guess but I assume he would bring a lot more emotion to the table than Kawhi). MKG was adept at scoring in transition and he has a very advanced feel of basketball. Most players his age don’t care about the subtle nuances but Gilchrist is more than capable of setting solid screens, finding the open man and hustling, which feeds the perception that he is a “winner” even further.
Gilchrist measured 6’5.75″ at the combine, an ideal size for his relentless defense. Much like Kawhi, he’s capable of defending point guards through power forwards which gives his team the option to switch the pick-and-roll without worrying about matchups.
He may not have the high ceiling of Thomas Robinson or Andre Drummond. He doesn’t have the potential to be an offensive asset like Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal either. But if I’m Charlotte, I can’t find a better player to build a franchise around especially when that franchise is completely dysfunctional. MKG will succeed in any environment because that’s in his nature. Chances are that he will become a good enough shooter to complement his athleticism. Again, it’s in his nature. He will fufill his potential. The same cannot be said for Drummond or Robinson, guys whose skills are tantalizing but don’t offer the same security.
Most importantly, MKG is secure with himself.
“I love being me,” Gilchrist said.
Now don’t take that has a narcissistic comment. It’s not in his nature.
Now if the Spurs could coax Charlotte into trading the No. 2 overall pick for DeJuan Blair and cash considerations …