Last night’s game against the Chicago Bulls was the second time in four games that coach Steve Clifford started the second half with Kidd-Gilchrist on the opposing point guard. Reggie Jackson had lit up Mo Williams for 22 points (7/12 FG) at Detroit on March, the 8th, while Aaron Brooks found himself with 15 points (6/10 FG) after the first 24 minutes of action.
The impressive part about Mike’s defense on both of them is that it’s not even something you can point at by using traditional basketball statistics. If one broke down Aaron Brooks’s field goal attempts against every Charlotte defender he found himself against, you would see an obscure 1 for 3 on shots were Kidd-Gilchrist was the man checking him.
Reggie managed to be a bit more trigger-happy by going 1 for 6 against Michael (side-note – I made the executive decision not to acknowledge a lay-up Reggie made with 6 seconds left in the game on which MKG clearly was more concerned about not fouling or giving up a three).
His presence manages to be so intimidating for these two smaller point guards that they wouldn’t even attempt shots. Brooks’s three field goal attempts came in 11 minutes of playing time during which Mike guarded him. He launched 14 (8/14 FG) more in the 21 minutes he was guarded by a different defender. Meanwhile, Reggie’s six attempts came in an 18-minute long MKG-full experience (to put it in perspective, that’s about as long as the title track for the fantastic album “Close to the Edge” by Yes), while he managed to fire up 14 (7/14 FG) more shots in the remaining 15 minutes.
How is it so?
A screen set in the pick-n-roll is just supposed to create at least some sort of separation for one guard to be able to escape the guard defending him. With the amount of pick-n-rolls ran per game in today’s game, it’s impossible for a point guard to truly “stop” his assignment. That’s a job the whole team is dealing with. Kidd-Gilchrist is able to make it seem like that’s not exactly the truth. Mike’s length and guard-like speed makes it very difficult for a six-footer to lose him.
See how close Kidd-Gilchrist sticks to Jackson when tracking him from behind, despite the fact that he just got nailed by an Andre Drummond screen and Jackson is attempting a floater, a shot meant for releasing the ball quite quickly:
Here’s how he manages to fly in right in front of Jackson after Drummond finding contact with him by the use of a screen in the pick-n-roll:
It didn’t get any easier for Jackson whenever Kidd-Gilchrist justifiably went under screens on him. The couple of steps of free space weren’t enough to blow by Michael. Neither was there enough time for Jackson to gather for a shot:
Ultimately, both Brooks and Jackson became invisible, seemingly not sure whether there indeed is enough of place to launch up a shot or even advance further with the ball with Kidd-Gilchrist either keeping them in front of him or trailing them dangerously close after going over (or rather “through”) a screen:
A telling stat concerning Brooks’s performance with Kidd-Gilchrist on him is that he didn’t even manage to record a 2-point field goal. All three of his field goal attempts were threes off the dribble after getting a sliver of daylight thanks to a screen:
Admittedly, the Bulls point guard did manage to get to the line twice after Kidd-Gilchrist splendidly funneled him into the big responsible for dropping back on the pick-n-roll:
To conclude, I acknowledge that Brooks and Jackson aren’t exactly world beaters. There are plenty of better point guards out there. But guess what? They can score and put up points in a hurry. Both of them were responsible for creating their team’s lead in the first half. Both of them were slowed down by Kidd-Gilchrist in the second half as Charlotte got back in front to eventually win the game. There are few defenders versatile enough out there whom you as a coach can take off their assignment and successfully unleash on the opposing point guard (in a game where the same guy successfully guards a tricky four with range like Nikola Mirotic).
I won’t follow this up by going off on a tangent on how this proves Kidd-Gilchrist’s candidacy for the All-Defensive Team, especially considering Rick Bonnell’s surprising, new article which quotes Michael saying that he wants to be the best defender ever. I’ll save that for a different time, seeing as I wouldn’t even gone there anyway hadn’t Mike made that loud head-line.
For now all I will say is that being able to guard opponents one through four is a special skill. Such capabilities and match-up options can end up swinging a playoff series.
Damn. It’s been fun watching Kidd-Gilchrist hitting his groove this season.