It’s no secret that the Cavaliers hope to return to the playoffs next season. Whether you hear it from Nick and Dan Gilbert, Chris Grant, or writers such as Brian Windhorst or Sam Amico, the consensus is that the Cavaliers are ready to make the jump back into contention after three years of high lottery picks. We’ve also heard from Chris Grant that the Cavaliers are exploring all options to get better. While rumors of trades for Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Horford (my choice), and even Paul Pierce abound, there may be a more realistic trade for a young player that the Cavaliers should explore.
As bad as the last few years have been for the Cavaliers, they have been even worse for the Charlotte Bobcats. After setting an NBA record for the lowest single season winning percentage in league history two seasons ago, they then finished with the second worst record in the NBA this year(although their point differential was the worst in the league again this year). The Bobcats’ misfortune extends well past their record. Last year, despite having the best odds of winning the NBA draft, the Bobcats wound up picking second behind the then New Orleans Hornets (Pelicans!). This year was even worse, as the Bobcats will pick fourth in the draft after being passed by the Cavs and Wizards at the draft lottery. While the Bobcats have some promising players in Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo, and even Jeff Taylor, they lack the perennial All Star that teams need to truly contend. At this rate the Bobcats look like they are building towards a team that could someday make the playoffs, only to lose in the first round.
This is where the Cavs come in. While most experts agree that there is no franchise player in this year’s draft, the same was said two years ago when the Cavaliers took Kyrie Irving, who was the youngest All Star in the league this year and is definitely seen as a player to build your team around. It is undoubtedly in the Bobcats’ best interest to trade for the number one pick if they feel that any player in this draft could possibly become their franchise player. The player the Cavaliers should demand in return is one they were often linked to prior to last year’s draft, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Before we go any farther I have to admit to being a huge MKG fan. He was number one on my list of preferred wings last year and I was greatly disappointed when the Bobcats took him with the second pick last year. This trade would give the Cavaliers the chance to fill their huge hole at small forward and give the Bobcats a chance to pick a player that they could truly build their franchise around.
Now you might ask "if there is a franchise type player in this draft, why don’t the Cavaliers just take him for themselves?" To be honest, I’m not sure that there is one, and if there is, does he really fit the Cavaliers? Nerlens Noel’s defense and shot blocking would help to be sure, but can you really play him with Tristan Thompson on offense? In the case of the Bobcats, Biyombo is probably best off the bench and could back up Noel while providing a similar skill set. Ben McLemore could fit with the Cavaliers, but they seem committed to Dion Waiters as their starting shooting guard at this time. Kidd-Gilchrist is arguably as good of a prospect as either player (Hollinger loved him in his draft rater), and is younger than McLemore, Otto Porter, or any other top perimeter player in this draft, a bonus as his youth leaves room for substantial growth.
While some would call Kidd-Gilchrist’s rookie year disappointing as he was voted All Rookie second team, I would disagree. Kidd-Gilchrist had a higher field goal percentage, higher PER, and more rebounds, steals, assists, and blocks per game than fellow rookie small forward Harrison Barnes (and Dion Waiters and Brad Beal), who was voted to All Rookie first team. Kidd-Gilchrist also only averaged .2 points per game less than Barnes, and his free throw shooting percentage was .749 to Barnes’s .758. Kidd-Gilchrist’s biggest disadvantage was three point shooting, where Barnes shot .359 (roughly league average) to MKG’s .222 (way below league average). Kidd-Gilchrist also only attempted 0.1 threes per game, or roughly one every ten games, so he is adept at playing to his strengths. With his incredible work ethic, I have no doubt Kidd-Gilchrist can become enough of a shooter to open up his other skills of running the floor on the break, finishing at the rim, getting to the line, and most importantly, being a wrecking ball on defense, a la Ron Artest or Gerald Wallace in their primes. Sounds like the perfect player for Mike Brown and the Cavaliers’ new focus on defense.
So why would the Bobcats trade Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? As much as I love MKG, even I have to admit that he probably isn’t going to become the kind of player you can build a team around. He will probably be best suited playing alongside an excellent offensive player, which would allow his various skills to shine in the best light, kind of like the way Scottie Pippen fit perfectly alongside Michael Jordan. Why couldn’t that player be Kyrie Irving, his former high school teammate? While I’m not sure if the first pick for MKG is completely realistic, the first and 19th picks for Kidd-Gilchrist and the fourth pick could be a realistic and beneficial trade for both teams.