By Sam Perley, hornets.com
After playing just seven games last year because of multiple reconstructive shoulder surgeries, small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned to put together another productive, defensive-laden season for the Charlotte Hornets. Not only did he start a team-high 81 games this NBA campaign, but Kidd-Gilchrist continued to produce results in a multitude of different areas on the basketball court, a trademark of his since entering the league five years ago.
Making Up for Lost Time
Kidd-Gilchrist erupted with season-high marks in both scoring (23 points) and rebounding (14) in Charlotte’s 107-96 opening-day road win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Oct. 26. He went on to play in all but one of Charlotte’s first 21 games through Dec. 5, putting up 10.0 points on 46.8 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 blocks.
During this stretch, the University of Kentucky product scored in double figures in six-consecutive games from Nov. 26-Dec. 5, matching the second-longest streak of his NBA career. Overall in his first 33 games of the season, Kidd-Gilchrist tallied averages of 9.1 points on 44.8 percent shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 block through Dec. 31.
2017 Starts Off Strong
Kidd-Gilchrist’s best month of the season statistically came in January as he averaged 9.4 points on 46.7 percent shooting, 8.4 rebounds (2.3 offensive), 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks in 15 total outings. His January rebounding and offensive rebounding numbers were tied for the highest and the highest by any small forward in the league, respectively, during this stretch.
He kept things going with 7.9 points on 46.3 percent shooting, a monthly-season-high 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 11 February games. From Feb. 15-25, Kidd-Gilchrist totaled 12-or-more rebounds in a career-high three-straight games, becoming the first Charlotte player to accomplish this particular feat since Bismack Biyombo did so from Jan. 10-17, 2015. For the month, Kidd-Gilchrist’s rebounding and offensive rebounding averages both ranked second amongst all NBA players at his position.
Spike in Shooting Percentage
While Kidd-Gilchrist saw his total rebounding numbers take a bit of a dip in Charlotte’s final 22 games of the season from March 2-April 11 (5.1), he still averaged 9.8 points on a much-improved 53.7 percent field-goal percentage and an 83.3 percent conversion rate from the free-throw line. Kidd-Gilchrist also totaled 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting and six rebounds in the team’s 115-109 home loss to the Chicago Bulls on March 13, matching the second-highest single-game field-goal percentage of his career in which he had 12-or-more attempts (75.0 percent).
On the year, Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 9.2 points on 47.7 percent shooting, a team-high 7.0 rebounds (1.9 offensive boards) and 1.4 assists to go along with career-best marks in free-throw percentage (78.4 percent), steals (1.0), blocks (1.0) and turnovers (0.7). He was one of just 13 players in the league this year to start at least 81 games, marking the third such season by a Hornets player since the conclusion of the 2012-13 NBA campaign.
“It was a goal of mine this season to stay healthy all season and that’s what happened. I’m happy with myself when it comes to that. I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind when it comes to staying healthy,” said Kidd-Gilchrist during exit interviews on April 12.
Kidd-Gilchrist and reigning two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team honoree Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors were the only players in the league 6-7 or shorter to record at least 500 rebounds, 75 steals and 75 blocks this year. Since the start of the 2002-03 NBA campaign, Kidd-Gilchrist is one of just four different players to reach these aforementioned thresholds in a single season (Green, Shawn Marion and Gerald Wallace).
He also finished fourth in the NBA in defensive real plus-minus amongst small forwards (+2.47), a statistic that indicates the Hornets gave up roughly two-and-a-half fewer points per 100 defensive possessions with Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor compared to when he wasn’t.
2017-18 Season Outlook
Kidd-Gilchrist has a guaranteed contract for the next two years with a player option for the 2019-20 NBA season. Although he missed almost the entire 2015-16 NBA campaign, Kidd-Gilchrist refused to let the roughly year-long absence justify any sort of personal limitations he might have endured this season.
“I don’t give excuses,” said Kidd-Gilchrist. “I don’t know why. I felt like a rookie a little bit this season. We’ll see what happens next season.”
“I think [Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s] year was up and down,” added Hornets General Manager Rich Cho during media availability on April 13. “I thought he showed flashes of being really good and then other times I thought he was up and down on both ends of the floor. I told him that as well yesterday during the exit interview and I think he acknowledges it as well. I know he’s going to work hard this summer to get back to where he was and beyond.”