On a Dallas Mavericks team that has been historically good, one player has been particularly absent from adding to the fun. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been an afterthought. Dallas claimed him off waivers on February 11, but he has only played 75 minutes since then. He’s also taken just seven shots, making one.
Against the Utah Jazz, Kidd-Gilchist showed some life. With the Mavericks rested three starters—Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Dorian Finney-Smith—Kidd-Gilchrist had his number called. He played 18 minutes and made the most of them.
A quick look at the box score may have you scratching your head. He didn’t score a single point, attempt a single field goal or free throw, and didn’t have any assists. Outside of his six assists, the rest of his box score was filled with donuts. But today, Kidd-Gilchrist impacted the game in a way that’s difficult to track.
“Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 18 minutes, plus-21, and did not take a shot,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “He had an amazing presence for us defensively, and our offensive energy was coming off our defense in the second half.”
Small sample sizes can inflate stats, but his teammate, Delon Wright, who also played 18 minutes, managed only to break even in plus-minus. Kidd-Gilchrist played great one-on-one defense, putting a hand in the face of a Utah Jazz team that couldn’t miss from three. He also had a couple of great close-outs, clearly giving the game his all-out effort.
It should be noted that Kidd-Gilchirst’s playing time primarily coincided with Utah pulling their starters and emptying their bench in the second half. Still, his advanced metrics were impressive. Kidd-Gilchrist ended with a game-best NET rating of plus-66, which can be credited in large part to his remarkable defensive rating of 76.5.
Of course, these numbers can prove to be outliers with the small sample size—it’s just one game after all—but what Kidd-Gilchrist did against Utah is beyond numbers. The way he played today is about the eye-test. He showed that the Mavericks can rely on him when they need a few good defensive possessions. This could be huge in the playoffs, especially if they play the Los Angeles Clippers. and their talented wings, in the first round.
Kidd-Gilchrist’s role is an unknown moving forward for the two remaining seeding games and eventually the playoffs. It’s even possible he doesn’t see the court again. But today, he proved that if he does get the call, his defense can make an impact.