Fantasy Basketball: Who Benefits From the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Injury?
Although last season’s 33-win campaign certainly fell below the franchise and fan base’s standards, everything was seemingly moving in a positive direction for the Hornets heading into 2015-16.
Then came the sobering news that small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hurt his shoulder in a preseason game with Orlando. That news became worse when an MRI revealed a torn labrum and a probable six months of rehab. It’s hard to imagine the Hornets rushing back a 22-year old that they just signed to a $52 million-dollar contract, so the expectation is that he’ll miss the entire season.
This definitely isn’t good news for Hornets fans with playoff hopes, but it should offer a slight fantasy boost for a couple players.
What Charlotte Is Missing
There’s never been any question about Kidd-Gilchrist’s defensive impact. In the 27 games Kidd-Gilchrist missed last season, the team averaged 5.4 steals per game and 4.7 blocks per game. In the 55 that he played in, the steals jumped to 6.4 and the blocks increased to 5.8 per game, so it’s not exactly going out on a limb to assume the Hornets will have a tougher time maintaining a top-10 defense, as they have had each of the last two years.
But on the flip-side, the Hornets have finished 28th and 24th in Offensive Efficiency the last two seasons, and the lack of three-point and perimeter shooting has played a huge factor in that.
Hornets head coach Steve Clifford desperately wants to improve upon that. Kidd-Gilchrist has never been a source of three-point shooting, so increasing the volume of three-point shooting is much easier to attain with him out. In more than 5,000 minutes with the team over three seasons, Kidd-Gilchrist has attempted only 18 shots from beyond the arc.
Whose Minutes Increase?
With Kidd-Gilchrist out and the team light in terms of wing depth, Clifford will have to make over the rotation.
One probable solution could be moving Nicolas Batum back to small forward, where he’s played predominantly in his career. The hope was to have him at the shooting guard spot, but that’s where the Hornets actually have some depth.
Clifford has come out and mentioned three candidates to replace Kidd-Gilchrist in the starting lineup: Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lamb and P.J. Hairston. Regardless of who they select, I wouldn’t touch any of them with a 100-foot pole from a fantasy perspective.
Lamb has the most upside, having shown he can score when given the right opportunities (Lamb scored in double figures 30 times in 2013-14). However, Clifford expressed some reluctance about taking Lamb off the second team, and he offers such minimal value in other statistical areas beyond points and three-pointers.
The same could be said for Hairston, who shot just 32.3 percent last season as a volume shooter.
If last year is any indication, Williams being in the starting lineup did very little to impact his performance. In the 37 games he started, he averaged 28 minutes, 8.2 points and 5.2 rebounds. In the 41 games as a reserve, he played 24 minutes per game his numbers were virtually the same.
So Who Really Benefits?
The most significant benefactor of all this should be Jeremy Lin. Assuming he beats out Brian Roberts as the backup point guard, his usage rate should be fairly high on the second unit. He can also fill in at the shooting guard position, as he did quite a bit last year playing alongside Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson. Also, should anything happen to starting point guard Kemba Walker, Lin's value will spike immensely.
With his strong first step, Lin typically does most of his damage at the rim or behind the arc, with roughly 64% (177 of 277 made field goals) of his 2014-15 production coming from one of those two spots. With the Hornets' new commitment to launching more three-pointers, Lin's value could improve even if he doesn't benefit directly from the MKG injury.
His minutes will probably hover around the 20 to 25 range, so he’s only worth a late round flier in deeper season-long leagues.
The other Hornet to keep on the radar is rookie Frank Kaminsky, who can help spread the floor and generate a more efficient offense. This was likely a primary factor in the franchise's drafting Kaminsky over Justise Winslow, so expect Kaminsky to get his opportunities.
The early returns from the preseason have shown an increase in three-point volume. Last season, the team averaged only 19 attempts per game, while they’ve fired up 82 in their first three preseason games (27.3 per game). Kaminsky didn’t play much in the first game, but he nearly notched a double-double (9 points, 11 rebounds) in the second game, while launching 9 three-pointers in the process.
With Clifford in charge, we’ll probably never see immense fantasy production from any Hornets, (outside a few Al Jefferson stretches), but given the right opportunities, Lin and Kaminsky could offer sneaky value this season.