Charlotte Hornets: Should Michael Kidd-Gilchrist keep his starting position?

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 27: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Charlotte Hornets shoots the ball during the game against the New York Knicks on January 27, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 27: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Charlotte Hornets shoots the ball during the game against the New York Knicks on January 27, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Should the Charlotte Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist keep his starting position, although he’s a weak on the offensive end?

Recently I penned the article, 5 bold predictions for the Charlotte Hornets 2017-18 season. One of those bold predictions was that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s scoring would improve. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford believes that the Hornets are fine offensively.

Offensively, the Hornets ranked 14th in the league last season. Yet, compared to the Eastern Conference, they’re behind the Toronto Raptors (sixth), Cleveland Cavaliers (seventh), Boston Celtics (eighth), Washington Wizards (ninth), and the Miami Heat (12th).

Charlotte likely won’t miss the playoffs again next season. But they will earn a first round exit if they still lag behind their counterparts in offensive efficiency.

Nonetheless, according to the Associated Press, Clifford fully supports MKG. This is what he had to say about the Hornets’ starting small forward:

"“We have enough offense with him on the floor that we can be fine offensively,” Clifford said. “…It’s easy to look at guy who is not a range shooter and say he doesn’t belong in today’s NBA game. But if you can’t guard your guy in this league — and I’m talking about blow-by, being too small, not physical enough, not wanting to put any (effort) into it — you better be 28 or 29 (points per game) or it’s very difficult for your team to win.”"

MKG averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 rebounds last season. What MKG lacks in offense, Clifford believes, he “makes up for it with his defense and other intangibles.”

But in order for MKG to be a contributing factor on the offensive end, he has to get those scoring percentages up. MKG’s offensive inefficiency may be due in part to Kemba Walker. Walker, who only averaged 5.5 assists last season, must start passing the ball more. With more ball movement, Walker will be able to get his entire team involved on the offensive end.

In addition to getting more touches from Walker, MKG has to become a credible threat outside the paint. As David Aldridge mentioned in his Offseason Rankings:

"“Not exactly sure, then, how the non-shooting Carter-Williams will fit into that mix effectively at either guard spot, especially when Charlotte already has a guy in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who doesn’t stretch the floor (in this NBA, how is it possible for a starting small forward to only attempt nine — nine — 3-pointers in an entire season?).”"

Although, my most recent article predicted that MKG’s scoring would improve, it appears that Clifford believe the Hornets will be fine even if he doesn’t. But averaging 9.2 points per game is unacceptable for a starter. Therefore, should MKG come off the bench next season if the Hornets are serious about a deep postseason run?

Should MKG keep his starting position?

On Friday, the Hornets held a media luncheon covered by The News Observer. Rick Bonnell’s title posed the following question – Will Charlotte Hornets move Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the bench? Uh, no.  

"“Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford didn’t wait around for a question Friday. What he said about small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist amounted to a proclamation:“MKG is again his starter two weeks out from training camp, and Clifford states that with conviction.“‘MKG – everybody wants to know – he’ll start and I think he’ll have a great year,’ Clifford said at a luncheon with media regularly covering the Hornets.“‘Spacing is the basic tenant of offensive basketball,’” Clifford said, acknowledging Kidd-Gilchrist’s limited shooting range. “But it’s not as important as competitiveness, it’s not as important as character, and it’s not as important as natural talent.”"

Without a doubt, MKG needs to expand his shooting range. He only shot 11 percent from 3-point range last season. As a career 20.6 percent 3-point shooter, he isn’t going to turn into a sharpshooter overnight. Yet, he has to be comfortable taking more shots outside the paint, and work on his mid-range jumper.

It may be true what Clifford said, that even without MKG producing at a high level offensively, the Hornets, as a whole, are fine. However, getting by without your starting small forward being a productive shooter may help the Hornets snag a playoff berth. But seeing a second round of postseason action is not in the cards for the Hornets.

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If that’s the Hornets’ goal — just to not miss the playoffs next season — they’re on track to do so. But if Charlotte wants to be a contender and have a real postseason run, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has to start putting in some tangibles, such as making his shots.