Major props to Diebolt Designs for this graphic...They do some AWESOME work!
OK…So I was the Trade Street Post guy who really, really, REALLY wanted us to Draft Thomas Robinson. As history goes, we didn’t. I researched and was very pleased that we got Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He is a hard worker and he does so many intangibles on the court that he can easily change the culture on any NBA team. He’s even been compared to a Scottie Pippin. That is a huge compliment for him and one that I am certain that he can live up to. Now I have a purpose for the article. This thought hit me at random, and perhaps I’m just a bit slower than some other fans because I expect miracles in every pic and trade, so I want to share it with you. Take the jump and find out where I’m heading.
MKG was a great pickup for us. We had a gaping hole at SF, and MKG filled the hole nicely. Jeff Taylor also joined the party for the SF spot, but this article is about MKG for now. MKG was brought in for his amazing abilities and hard work ethic. These are 2 areas needed to make a change in any franchise. The 1 summer league game we saw MKG play, the guy was simply amazing. He was injured and had to be put on the shelf. Enter the season, with everyone healthy, and again, aside from some fouling issues, MKG looked to be on point to be a Rookie of the Year candidate. He was actually putting up numbers that were more impressive than his former Kentucky teammate, Anthony Davis. We were actually 7-5 at one point…remember those days? The talks of playoffs were in the air…
Well, we crashed back to Earth and have had to snap some pretty mean losing streaks. The worst one was our home game losing streak, which was nearing NBA-record level. Well, the streak got snapped, but the team as of late has looked more like a Larry Brown coached team. Not necessarily the defense played so much as we don’t see the rookies on the court very much. Jeff Taylor went from having to start at SG while Gerald Henderson was hurt, to being a player that gets on the court for 5-7 minutes to give the “old guys” some rest. MKG sees the similar happen with him in terms of minutes. He will get on the court and play for a bit, but then he may pick up 2 fouls quickly and get subbed out, buried on the bench until Coach Dunlap trips over his feet while pacing back and forth. At that point, he MIGHT get put back in the game. We are struggling this season. If we are looking like a team that is bound for the draft lottery, why not give the rookies as much burn as you can? No training is as good as “on the job” training. If Gilchrist or Taylor gets into foul trouble, make them play with that foul trouble. Let them learn how to play with the fouls. Let them figure out what they did wrong. Most importantly, let them figure out how to defend and figure out what the refs will and won’t allow. If they get 2 fouls and are buried on the bench for 2 quarters…what are they learning by watching? Hopefully this rant satisfies all of those that have all ranted during games as to why MKG gets buried on the bench all too often.
This article is not to rant about rookies not getting playing time. More specifically, it is to point out something that may not be easily noticed during games. I actually have picked up on this at some of my son’s basketball games. No, I don’t think he’s the next MKG. It’s just something that I am noticing in every game that we play. When there is a team on the court, playing basketball, and 4 guys look lethargic, and the one guy is everywhere, most of the time, the energetic one that is everywhere is going to get called for a foul. Also, if there is one player that is playing super intense, and the other 4 are standing around, that intense guy is getting called for a foul. In my son’s games, when this is witnessed by the refs, 9 times out of 10, if my son is near where a player from the other team has fallen down, been stripped of the ball, or there is some reason to call a foul, my #9 gets popped with a foul. Once he’s in foul trouble and we have to bench him, the points start piling up. When we put him back in, he has to be so careful on defense, he can’t give 100%, and though the other team’s scoring slows, we can’t easily make up the difference. Does this sound familiar? I do not in any way show favoritism to my son…you can ask him. I am his worst critic. My point is that if you read this and put MKG and/or Taylor in my son’s place, the Bobcats seem to look the same way. If Taylor and/or MKG are on the floor in the early going, and we are getting stops, typically, bad foul calls are made against our rookies. Off the court they come and the points start piling up. The big difference is that, unlike my son’s 10 game season and tournament, these guys are playing every night. Eventually, that cautious play that they have to shift into so they don’t foul out starts showing up as soon as the game starts. They can’t play aggressive or else they will “ride the pine” until the subs are run into the ground. Do I blame the refs for the poor play of our rookies? No. I know…you’re scratching your head, right? Stay with me on this one.
One reason I’d like to see Taylor starting at SF for a few games has multiple reasons. First off, Taylor was a primary scorer for Vandy, and he can be that guy who shoots the 3 ball or slashes to the paint. Taylor knows how to be an offensive option, play off the ball and move without the ball. He’s also older, and for that, I give him a higher basketball IQ. I’d love for Coach Dunlap to read this and give a lineup with MKG coming off the bench a try. I really think, for now, MKG would be better suited with the second unit. Calm down…I know I’m requesting our 2nd round pick start over our 1st round pick…I’m about to cover that too…
Remember those rumblings about MKG being like Pippin…well…imagine the Bulls with Pippin, and no Jordan. Pippin became the player he was because he was playing beside a superstar. Now, don’t get me wrong, Kemba is amazing, but he’s not the superstar that MKG knows how to play beside. If you recall, MKG played next to what was viewed as a superstar center. There’s a big difference playing beside a guy who is playing in the paint, and has a range that typically doesn’t venture out much further than the paint. When your guy is one that shoots jumpers, drives to the lane, and is primarily supposed to set guys up to score, it is a big change for someone like MKG. Following shots by Davis, and coming off of double teams on Davis to score is one thing, but to have to go 1-on-1, or even a double-team on his own, MKG is starting to struggle. Don’t get me wrong though; Gilchrist is an incredible athlete, and as he matures, he’ll get better in every aspect of his game because he’s too hard of a worker to not improve. He is already incredible in the open court and can drive to the basket with ease. Those “open court” opportunities don’t happen often, so MKG is stuck looking for other options to score. I’m not sure if anyone has picked up on it, but his struggles started when Mullens sprained his ankle. When that happened, the one guy on the team that has 3-point range AND is big enough to bang in the paint got hurt, the frontcourt became one that only ever needed single coverage to stop. This last game against the Bulls was proof of that. Once our guards were shut down, single coverage was all that was needed to kill our bigs. Getting Mullens back will help Gilchrist’s game. Mark my words, quote me, re-tweet me…whatever…Mullens returning gives us more of a scoring threat in the paint and from the outside, spreading the defense and drawing double teams. MKG is 19 and he’s learning how to improve his game. For now, the one thing that ain’t broke is how he played in Kentucky. We could really use a big that demands the double team. Maybe that is Josh Smith, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, Nerlens Noel…you get my point though. Our team struggles because of simple mechanics…if there is no player that demands a double team, defense can go straight man or even run a zone and stop us. I used to think that the point guards we had sucked because no one on the team could score off of their passes, thus low assist numbers. The fact of the matter is that when no one draws a double, no one is ever open. Someone is always covered and if you can’t create your own shot, you have problems. Sessions, Kemba, and Gordon are excellent at creating their own shot. Henderson is great at coming off of screens and performing the catch-and-shoot, and he’s a good option in the paint, posting up his cover. We just don’t have that combination on the floor at the same time. If Ben Gordon gets hot and gets double teamed, Gordon isn’t the best guy to hit an open MKG with the pass. Most of the time, when that double comes on him, MKG is sitting on the bench.
I don’t claim to have the answers, but if you watch and study just certain aspects of the game itself, you’ll notices some things that MAY make a difference. I’d like to see a starting 5 of Kemba, Henderson, Taylor, Adrien, and Biyombo. I’d even be happy seeing Kemba, Gordon, Taylor, Adrien, and Biyombo. I just think we need to start out with MKG on the bench for a few games. Let’s have Taylor wear his man down. I really believe you’ll see Taylor scoring more and an offense on the floor that moves and rotates well. Bringing in a second unit with Sessions, Gordon or Henderson, MKG, Warrick, and Haywood could create the opportunity to push the ball into the paint and have MKG slashing to the basket and cleaning up misses by Warrick and/or Haywood. Haywood is a big that would have to draw a double in the post up position, which would almost assure that MKG is lurking somewhere to score the ball.
Maybe I’m just babbling senselessly, wanting an assistant coaching job based on my experience with 7, 8, and 9 year olds. That’s qualification enough…right? An ability to analyze situations, come up with a hypothesis, test it, and if it fails, draw conclusions and create a new hypothesis. Oh well, a Bobcats fan’s life for me.
Let’s Go Cats!