Detroit Pistons: Breaking Down How Brandon Knight Will Thrive in 2013
In 2013, the success of the Detroit Pistons will depend on two key factors. First, the health of their best player Greg Monroe. If he's not there, the Pistons don't have a prayer. A close second, is the play of their second-year point guard Brandon Knight.
Besides Monroe, Knight is the most important player on the Pistons' roster. He's been given the keys to the offense and his ability to improve upon his rookie year is paramount.
Last season was a quiet but solid one for Knight. He showed flashes of potential, but was inconsistent and overshadowed by rookies like Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio who were more NBA-ready.
As a result Knight flew under the radar. This could be his year to break out, if he takes the next step in his development.
Here's how Knight will thrive.
Another Year Older and Wiser
Brandon Knight was a 20-year-old, one-and-done rookie last season. With only one year of college basketball under his belt, it's understandable that his transition to the professional game was a difficult one.
Some players adjust quicker than others. Fellow one-and-doner Kyrie Irving had a much shorter learning curve. Players like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant were also able to have dominant rookie years with only one year of college basketball experience as well.
With that said, the majority of players that enter the draft early do experience growing pains. The pro game is simply faster and more complex than in college. They're also facing elite talent every night.
Knight certainly had his growing pains. Any expectations that he'd be the second coming of Chauncey Billups in his first year were unrealistic. He's got a lot to learn.
He's got the potential to get there some day though.
Only time will tell whether he'll rise to that level in 2013, but the lessons learned in his rookie year will help him get there.
Addition by Subtraction
In the years after the Pistons' 2004 championship win, fans witnessed the slow decline of that teams' core players. It became clear that the title run was over.
That team was gradually dismantled but it was a slow process. It ended up weighing the Pistons down, preventing them from moving on.
As a result the Pistons became an afterthought and were no longer competitive.
Detroit didn't want to repeat that mistake again.
Last season it was clear, the Ben Gordon era in Detroit was done. It didn't work, and instead of letting that failure continue Joe Dumars got rid of him. It was the right move.
In doing so, the team can finally be turned over to it's young stars: Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight.
Knight showed flashes of leadership as a rookie. Gordon's absence will make it possible for him to get used to that role even more.
There are still veterans on the team but they don't have the talent of Knight, nor are they vocal leaders. It's the perfect situation for Knight to step up, grab the reigns and take his seat as the "co-leader" of the franchise.
A Formidable Duo
Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe form one of the best young point guard/center combos in the NBA. If you look at players that have been drafted within the last five years, who's better?
Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo? No. Roy Hibbert and George Hill? Maybe. JaVale McGee and Ty Lawson? Okay, there's one.
My point is this: There's plenty of great point guard/center combos out there but very few of have the youth of the Pistons' duo. Very few of them have their combined talent as well.
Knight has only played with Monroe for one lockout-shortened season. They need time to develop a rapport and learn each other's tendencies. Both players will benefit as their on-the-court relationship matures.
Once this happens the Pistons offense will soar.
Improved Perimeter Shooting
The Pistons struggled shooting the basketball last year. According to ESPN, they were 25th in the NBA in field goal percentage per game (.438) and 26th in three-pointers made per game (4.8).
It's no surprise that their points per game average (90.9) was near the bottom of the league as well—27th.
Teams that don't pose a threat from the perimeter, and from behind the arc, make it difficult for players like Knight to do what they do best: penetrate and create shots in the lane. Defenders simply clog the lane and take that away.
The Pistons will improve in this area with the addition of Kim English, who is a sharpshooter, and the healthy presence of Charlie Villanueva. Improvement will also be seen if Austin Daye can rebound from a dismal shooting season.
With consistent options available outside, Knight will have options. Defenders will have to respect Detroit's outside shooters and the lane will open up. He'll have an easier time getting to the basket and creating shots for himself and his teammates.
If that doesn't work, he can always kick it outside.
Dishing the Rock
Since last season ended, Pistons fans have been grumbling about Brandon Knight's poor assist totals. A starting point guard really does need to average more than 3.8 assists a game.
However, directing the offense of a team of veteran players is a daunting task for any 20-year-old.
It's really no surprise that Knight's assist numbers were low. That's the part of the game that he's learning.
The bigger problem was that four rookies had higher totals than Knight. That is why fans were so frustrated. Ricky Rubio, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas all were more proficient dishing the rock than he was.
Never mind that both Walker and Thomas had two more years of college basketball experience under their belts and Rubio had been playing overseas since he was 14.
Pistons fans need not worry about Knight and here's why. Guess who else totaled 3.8 assists per game his rookie year? Rajon Rondo. He improved by two assists per game in his second year and led the league last season.
Steve Nash averaged 2.1 assists his rookie year and we all know his abilities sharing the basketball.
The point is not to overreact by the numbers. Knight is exactly where he should be and he'll continue to improve in the assist department this season as he grows accustomed to the point guard position.
A full offseason—uninterrupted by a lockout—in the Pistons organization will do wonders for his development.
* All statistics in this slide were courtesy ESPN.com