What’s wrong with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot?
When the rumor surfaced that the Charlotte Hornets were looking to shop Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for a draft pick, I was surprised. Did the team already give up on MKG as a viable offensive player, based on one season in the NBA? Although this rumor was quickly shot down and the team eventually held onto MKG, I wanted to study the tape to see if there were any signs that showed MKG’s shot was broken beyond repair or whether he holds the ability to turn into a respectable jump shooter.
Rookie Season Statistics
First, let’s look at MKG’s shooting statistics from his rookie season. According to basketball-reference.com, he shot 27% (78-287) on shots categorized as jump shots. Looking at NBA.com’s shot chart, we see similar bleak numbers on shots outside of the painted area. There is not much green (or even yellow) to be found anywhere with a large sample size on the court.
Saying that MKG struggled with his jump shot last season is an obvious statement. Now that we have background information on his rookie season problems, let’s dive into the video and see just what his issues are and if they are fixable going forward in his career.
Several parts of MKG’s shooting form are fundamentally sound, such as his follow through, but there are some pretty large issues with other aspects of his shot. The first issue that everyone notices when watching MKG shoot is the hitch in his form just before his release point. This awkward hitch throws off his form right before his release point, which zaps his effectiveness. It’s possible MKG has second thoughts right before the release of each shot, as this may be a confidence issue. It could also be muscle memory from years of poor form on his shot. Regardless of the reasons as to why he has a hitch in his shot, the point is that it is one the main reasons, if not the biggest, as to why he is a poor shooter. In order to become a better shooter, he needs to fix this hitch in his shot.
Release and Landing
A second problem, in addition to his hitch, is a combination of the release timing and landing on his jump shots. Fundamental shooters release at the height of their jump or just before in one fluid motion to maximize the power generated by the jump. The hitch discussed above causes MKG to release just after the apex of his jump. This deficiency diminishes some of the energy created by the jump, which hurts his effectiveness as a jump shooter, as he is forced to overcompensate in other areas. He should be able to rely on the power generated by his jump to get the ball to the rim but releasing it after the highest point means he can’t fully utilize that power.
While MKG’s follow through with his wrist is one of his few positive motions when he shoots, the rest of his form after his release is poor. He kicks his right leg out on many shots right before he lands. While this is a common tactic used by shooters to draw a foul, it seems to just add to the laundry list of form mistakes MKG makes on each jump shot. In addition, he often lands in front of where he takes off, which is a red flag that illustrates larger issues with his form. While this alone is not the sole reason he is a poor shooter, it serves to magnify his issues, as good shooters go straight up on their jump shots and land in nearly the same spot they from which they jumped.
This might be the reason why his jump shots are long, as he has too much power from jumping forward on his shots. Due to his initial problem of releasing on the way down from the apex of his jump, you would expect his shots to fall short but instead, many of his shots are long and hit the back of the rim. This is likely caused due to the fact that he jumps forward on the release to overcompensate for his poor release point. This causes him to rely more on his arm than his legs, causing him to shoot the ball long.
Watch below for each of the issues described here as to why MKG struggles as a jump shooter, leading to misses on open midrange shots.
He shows similar issues even when he makes shots, which shows that his makes are more a function of luck than anything he does differently on these shots. His hitch is prevalent even on the makes, as are his landing issues. The clips below show good examples of this, so watch closely to see the same problems as the video above but with different results. Even though these shots go in, the same issues are still on display.
Finally, MKG’s jump shooting ability is hurt by his slow release, which causes his shots to be more closely challenged or taking away what should be open shots totally. Once he makes the catch, it takes him too long to gather the ball and get into his shooting motion. By the time he is ready to shoot, often times the defender is in his face or has taken away the opportunity.
In these clips, focus on where the defender is when MKG makes the catch and how he is unable to take advantage of the space for an open jump shot, as he takes a bit too long to gather and release before the defender is on him. This either puts him into a contested shot or takes away his shooting opening completely.
If he wishes to become a respected shooter, he will not only need to improve on the issues above, he will need to release his shot quicker, especially when the defender is closing out on him. This will give him an extra split second before the defender can challenge the shot, decreasing the ability of the defender to alter the shot.
Is it fixable?
It’s clear that there is not one aspect that MKG needs to work on to become a better jump shooter but there are three to four things to improve before he can become even an average jump shooter. The positive sign, if you can call it that, is that his form is consistent, even though it is broken. The first issue I would focus on is the hitch in his shot. He needs to develop a smoother release, which will also hopefully solve the issue of releasing after the apex of his jump.
It is likely that an offseason or two of working with a shooting coach to teach him the right shooting method along with hours of repetition could lead him to become a decent midrange shooter. He has shown that he can replicate form, so if he develops good habits, he will be able to duplicate it on each jump shot.
MKG is only 19 and going into his second year in the NBA, which is another reason I continue to have faith his jump shot will come around. He never needed to rely on a jump shot before, as we was able to get to the rim at will in every level through the NBA. Now that he can’t do that whenever he wants, he will need to develop a usable jumper to ensure he can stay in the rotation and be respected on the offensive end. He has plenty to work on but he still has time to improve and if he puts in the work, he should be able to become a much better shooter in his sophomore season.