How The Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Injury Impacts The Eastern Conference

This past week, Charlotte’s defensive-minded forward, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, suffered a torn labrum, which requires surgery and would leave him sidelined for six months. With any chance of return being in April, we will look at how the injury will impact the final playoff spots of the Eastern Conference.

Let us take a quick look at how the injury happened. In Charlotte’s preseason game against Orlando, Gilchrist tried to cut to the basket, and tripped over Tobias Harris and landed very hard on his shoulder. Many thought it was just a separated shoulder, but after an MRI, the medical staff found out it was a torn labrum. This is devastating news for Hornet fans, as Gilchrist was a lock-down defender, and showed great improvement this offseason with his jump shot.
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Let us look at how this problem became such an issue in the first place. Heading into the draft, Charlotte wanted to add a big man, who could stretch the floor, so they traded for Spencer Hawes. Then on draft night, Charlotte drafted Frank Kaminsky, who is a similar player to Spencer Hawes. Justise Winslow, a defensive specialist with a rising offensive game, was still available and could have been the primary back-up to Gilchrist. Charlotte will now need to lean on their offseason additions of Jeremy Lamb and Nicolas Batum to fill the production from Gilchrist. Baum is capable of filling the defensive whole but neither play could replace MKG’s hustle and grit.
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Charlotte was already being looked at as a fringe playoff contender heading into the season, and now losing one of their franchise cornerstones is a big blow to the revamped roster in Charlotte. The acquisition of Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb will only be more crucial to this team, as they will need to make immediate contributions. We have all seen what Lamb can do in Oklahoma City, and although it was rather disappointing, sometimes players just need a change of scenery. Lamb can come off the bench, space the floor, be a distributor, and play decent defense. Batum on the other hand has been a fan favorite back in Portland since his arrival. Batum was going to be scheduled to log a majority of his minutes at the power forward position, but due to the injury to Gilchrist, Batum will instead play small forward. Batum has never been a tremendous offensive player, but playing for a bigger contract this offseason we could see an explosion from Batum. Batum will not replace the defense that Gilchrist brings, but he will be able to hold his own, as he is not afraid to do the dirty work. Although these two players are not the same caliber as Gilchrist, they should allow Charlotte to remain competitive, but the loss of Gilchrist puts their playoff chances even further into jeopardy.
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With Gilchrist sidelined until at least April, Charlotte will depend on Kemba Walker taking the next steps and being a more consistent threat, and needing Al Jefferson to average at least a double-double nightly and stay healthy if they want to stay in contention for the last seed in the Eastern Conference. As stated before, Batum is an X-Factor, as he could explode as an offensive player, or stay his own course and be a third or fourth option for this team. The bench does have capable scorers in Lamb, Kaminsky, Spencer Hawes, P.J. Hairston, and Brain Roberts, so these players will help to ease the pressure from the current big three of Jefferson, Walker, and Batum. Being in the Eastern Conference, which is still currently rebuilding, there is always a chance for the Hornets to stay competitive enough until April, and then get their defensive specialist back, and make a final push for the eighth seed. However, I just do not see this happening, as this team lacks a true lockdown defender, therefore causing them to miss the postseason for a consecutive season.
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By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17
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Edited by Hamed Qashmar, @hamedqashmar
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