NBA Draft: Barnes vs. Kidd-Gilchrist
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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In our last NBA Draft feature we went over why Anthony Davis is hands down the top prospect in this year’s class. While he is running away as the number one pick, there is an intriguing race going on between the top two small forwards. Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes interchange spots depending on whose draft board you’re looking at. They’re both locks to go in the top ten and with that in mind we decide to take an in-depth look at them both and try to figure out which one should go higher.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Freshman) – 6’7, 232 lbs.
The first thing that will jump out to anybody who watches Kidd-Gilchrist, a freshman, is his intense approach and the effort that he puts forth every time he steps out on the court. One thing that Kidd-Gilchrist will never leave his future NBA coach yearning for is more energy. He truly loathes losing and is willing to do whatever it takes for his team to win.
He’s also his harshest critic; nobody is harder on himself than Kidd-Gilchrist. In fact, Kentucky head coach John Calipari often has to tell him to accept the fact that mistakes happen and to move onto the next play. In that sense, Kidd-Gilchrist would actually benefit from developing short-term memory loss so that he doesn’t dwell on mistakes from previous plays.
Kidd-Gilchrist isn’t the kind of player who you have to run plays for in order to get production from. He finds ways to contribute whether or not he touches the ball every play or only sees it every five. Chances are he’ll never be a featured option offensively. While averaging 12 points for the Wildcats this year and probably capable of scoring double-figures in the NBA as well, Kidd-Gilchrist is far from polished offensively.
As far as attacking the rim is concerned, he’s stellar. He’s long, athletic and explosive. If there’s an angle to get a shot off around the rim, he’s going to be able to exploit it. To put it simply: he’s a finisher.
However, as a shooter Kidd-Gilchrist is a liability. He’s shooting 27% from beyond the arc this year. His jump shot is in need of some serious work. His release is not clean as there’s a noticeable hitch in it. Coach Cal has done a good job of keeping him out of spot up situations and he also rarely settles. At the NBA level, though, he’s going to have to improve drastically in order to justify being a top five pick as he’s projected to be. His shot is not anywhere near as big of an issue at the free throw line as it is in the halfcourt set. Kidd-Gilchrist is knocking down 74% of his looks from the charity stripe, where he gets five times per game on average.
The only way you can feel comfortable about running the offense through Kidd-Gilchrist at this point is by giving him the ball in the post, where he uses some solid moves and his physical gifts to get looks that are far superior to the ones he creates out on the perimeter in isolation situations.
Evident by his eight shot attempts per game, Kidd-Gilchrist is a willing passer and someone who is definitely willing to play within the confines of a system. He dishes out 2.1 assists a night, but does average 2.3 turnovers. His ball handling skills are about average and could stand to improve. He’s prone to go right the majority of the time. Rarely will you see him running the pick-and-roll.
On the defensive end is where Kidd-Gilchrist really shines. He crashes the glass hard, can guard multiple positions and has the mindset of a defensive stopper. He takes getting scored on personally.
NBA comparisons to Portland Trail Blazers forward Gerald Wallace are pretty spot on. He’s also got some of Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest in him. The Artest of the last few years, though, the one that struggles shooting the ball, mainly posts up and focuses solely on defense.
Harrison Barnes (Sophomore) – 6’8, 215 lbs.
When scouting Barnes it’s really important to look at what is in front of you and not what Barnes was built up to be coming out of high school. Unjustly named a preseason All-American as a freshman, Barnes is not the franchise savior that he was once made out to be. He’s virtually out of the discussion for the first overall pick in 2012 after many felt like he was a lock to be the top pick in the 2011 draft during his senior year. If you look at Barnes expecting an Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant or Miami HEAT forward LeBron James type of player, you’re going to leave disappointed.
If you go into with a clear mind and no expectations, it would be impossible not to be impressed. As a sophomore Barnes is mature, calm, cool and collected. You never get the sense that he is out of control or unaware with what his coach is trying to get accomplished. He has a high basketball IQ and is a good teammate.
Offensively Barnes uses his reliable jump shot to get the majority of his 18 points a night. He’s shooting 42% from the three point line. Playing off of him is a mistake because he will make you pay. As an attacker, Barnes will often settle for the mid range jump shot rather than forcing his way to the rim. When he does get to the rim, he will use either hand to try to finish but is not an explosive finisher. He’ll throw a few down on occasion, but in the NBA opposing defenses will likely try to make him drive rather than letting him go to his patented jumper. In the pick-and-roll, Barnes is quite effective as he usually makes the right decision.
Barnes plays with arguably the best playmaker in the country in point guard Kendall Marshall. Marshall handles the distributing duties, which doesn’t give us many opportunities to get a feel for what Barnes brings as a creator. His role is to score and he does so very well by keeping defenders off balance with his willingness to go right or left. He too is right around two turnovers a game, so he will give it away but no tin an excessive fashion.
Defensively Barnes could best be described as serviceable. It’s unlikely that he’ll be the kind of guy who takes others out of games with his defense at the next level, but he won’t be someone who coaches are concerned about either. It is possible to get by him, but Barnes is fundamentally sound, works hard and makes his presence felt.
So Who is the Pick?
Well, a lot of it depends on the situation. Barnes, a year older, figures to be the more NBA ready player of the two. Kidd-Gilchrist does have more upside, though, and if he can overhaul his jump shot into something reliable he’ll be very scary.
It’s unlikely that either of them become franchise players or number one options. That’s not to say that they won’t make fine number two options or stellar third options, though. Based off of the way the standings are right now, Barnes and Kidd-Gilchrist will likely end up either with the Charlotte Bobcats, New Jersey Nets or Toronto Raptors, who would be thrilled to have one of them fall to them.
There’s a saying when it comes to evaluating the draft that you can’t accurately do so until a few years down the line. That will be the case in determining whether or not Barnes or MKG was the right pick. They’re both fine players who will make tremendous additions, but a few years down the line it’s likely that one surpasses the other. It will just come down to whether or not a team wants to gamble and invest in Kidd-Gilchrist’s immense potential, or go the safer route with Barnes, who will almost certainly be a contributor immediately. There are plenty of reasons to like one over the other and vice versa. The deciding factors could end up being their play in the NCAA Tournament and predraft workouts.
Senior NCAA and NB A analyst Yannis Koutroupis will be hosting his weekly chat at 11 am EST this Friday February 24th. You can get your questions into him here.