Was the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Extension the Right Move for the Charlotte Hornets?

With three relatively unflashy seasons under his belt, has MKG really done enough to earn his lucrative new contract?

On Wednesday, the Charlotte Hornets officially signed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to an extension worth $52 million over four years. 

Despite being a former second overall pick and only 21 years of age, some might look at MKG's new price tag and consider it a bit steep. He hasn't exactly had the flashiest first three seasons in the league, averaging a mere 9.0 points through his first 195 NBA games. Held up against the lofty expectations that come with being such a high lottery pick and the consolation prize that came right after Anthony Davis in the 2012 NBA Draft, a player with that kind of scoring output doesn't really seem worth $13 million per season. 

Then again, Kidd-Gilchrist's value doesn't really come from the offensive end (though he has certainly begun to improve in that area). No, MKG butters his bread by already being one of the better defending and rebounding small forwards in the Association.

Good defense is harder to measure in statistics than things like shooting efficiency, but ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM) is slowly becoming a go-to metric for stat nerds looking to quantify someone's ability to shut down opposing players. 

Kidd-Glichrist's DRPM of 3.63 last year placed him 12th in the whole NBA and fourth at his position. All three of the small forwards ahead of him on that list -- Draymond Green (5.23), Tony Allen (4.92), and Kawhi Leonard (4.59) -- were named as members of the All-Defensive First Team for 2014-15. Considering the fact that MKG is still only 21 (a point that could be made ad nauseam in this discussion), there's a decent chance that he becomes a staple on All-Defensive squads for years to come. 

That alone is a big part of why Charlotte was justified in ponying up so much cash for him as soon as they got the chance. In the 1,587 minutes that Kidd-Gilchrist was on the floor for the Hornets over his 55 games played in 2014-15, they had a stingy Defensive Rating of 96.3 points allowed per 100 possessions. In the 2,394 total minutes that they were without him, that number ballooned to a whopping 104.1. That's essentially the difference between a first-ranked defense and a 20th-ranked one.

As for rebounding, MKG pulled down a solid 7.6 boards in only 28.9 minutes per contest last year, including 2.0 on the offensive glass. Prorated to their per-36-minute equivalents, that's 9.4 total rebounds and 2.5 offensive boards.

His 14.4% Rebound Rate led all small forwards in the league, while his 7.4% Offensive Rebound Rate and 21.9% Defensive Rebound Rate both came in second at the position. At only 6'7" and -- you guessed it -- 21 years of age, those numbers are pretty darn impressive.

And as if the savvy defense and rebounding weren't enough to sell you on the still ultra young University of Kentucky product, his offense is actually getting better too. Largely -- and thankfully for our eyeballs -- because his wretched old jump shot is no longer a thing. His new and improved shooting stroke is not only silky smooth, but it's also increasing his shooting efficiency to a point that defenses will have to start respecting his range a little more.

FG% from 10-16 feet FG% from 16 feet to 3P line
2012-13 14.3% 30.9%
2013-14 15.4% 30.8%
2014-15 50.0% 37.1%

Kidd-Gilchrist might never become a three-point threat -- with only three makes on 18 attempts for his career -- but the extra efficiency away from the basket should eventually earn him a bump in his 18.4% Usage Rate and 8.8 shot attempts per contest. 

It doesn't hurt that he also gets to the free throw line at a fantastic rate, attempting .444 freebies for every field goal attempt. For context, that's pretty much in line with DeMar DeRozan's Free Throw Rate of .438, and he's among the league leaders in attempts from the line every season.

MKG shoots only 70.1% from the charity stripe when he gets to it, but considering he's only a year removed from completely tearing down and rebuilding his shooting mechanics, one would expect that to trend up with time.

With the NBA salary cap about to explode, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is probably already worth the $13 million annual salary for his defense and rebounding alone. If you factor in his improving offense and the incredible upside that comes with his having 5,114 minutes of NBA action already under his belt before his 22nd birthday, this deal has the potential to look like an absolute steal before it even kicks in next year.