NBA youngsters to watch: Brandon Knight

Brandon Knight at Detroit

The play of Brandon Knight was a small bright spot in a rough year for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Coming into the NBA Brandon Knight was a much anticipated prospect out of Kentucky. He was taken with the 8th pick in the 2011 draft by the Detroit Pistons and was thrown in at the deep end, averaging 32.3 minutes per game in his rookie season.

While not playing particularly badly in his first two seasons in the league, Knight was not particularly mesmerising either. This led to him being sent to Milwaukee along with Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov in exchange for Brandon Jennings. After the Bucks lots both Jennings and Monta Ellis last summer, Knight took on their ball handling duties on his arrival in Milwaukee.

On a team that suffered a massive roster overhaul during the off-season, Knight became the go to scoring threat in the Milwaukee offence and thrived. Putting up a career high 17.9 points this season, Knight proved himself as an adept NBA scorer.

While slashing, his preferred attacking mode, Knight is dangerous. Out of the NBA listed guards, only 12 had more field goal attempts at less than 5 feet than Knight and his 5.2 per game. Of this group, the only players with a better field goal percentage than Knight’s 55.1% in that range were Dwayne Wade, Monta Ellis, Goran Dragic, James Harden and Tony Parker. Not bad company at all.

Knight’s shooting, however, needs some work. He averaged a career low 32.5% from three-point land this year and needs to take some time this summer to work on his outside stroke.

His mid-range game, while not terrible, also needs some work. Knight ranks in the bottom half of the group of 49 guards taking 3.0 or more shots from the mid-range this year, with a field goal percentage of 39.6% in that area. These are two areas where Knight can do much to improve his stock as a scoring guard.

This, however, brings us to the big question regarding Knight. Can he play the point? While a little undersized, Knight’s game resembles that of a 2 guard and from what we’ve seen there’s no doubt he can be a successful NBA shooting guard.

This season though, Milwaukee utilized him as their primary ball handler hand, with Knight did a reasonable job. With a usage percentage of 26.7%, good for 24th in the league, Knight had a turnover ratio of only 10.6. Considering the likes of John Wall, James Harden and Dwyane Wade all had a higher turnover ratio than 10.6, Knight’s not doing to badly.

Where Knight doesn’t fare so well is in his assist rate. If we compare his assist rate of 19.8 to other young guards with a similar usage rate, we can see that Knight is below the likes of Michael Carter-Williams, Isaiah Thomas and John Wall, all of whom are above the 23.0 mark.

These numbers suggest that Knight would be better utilized at the 2 spot, where he can focus on his shooting and scoring, rather than having to worrying about distributing to his team mates and running an offence as well as carrying the scoring burden.

If Milwaukee are capable of picking up a starting point guard in this year’s free agency, then sliding Knight over to the 2 spot makes a lot of sense for this developing team.

With some work Knight can be a solid NBA shooting guard, possibly a great one if he can become a high percentage three-point shooter, as a solid outside shot would allow him even more opportunities on the drive.