What exactly is Brandon Knight's future role with the Detroit Pistons?
Outside of the argument that I introduced here a number of weeks ago suggesting that Greg Monroe should at least be shopped, few topics have garnered as much discussion in the Detroit Pistons community as this one.
There are three or four distinct camps when it comes to this discussion.
The first feels that Knight is the future point guard of this team. They point to Chauncey Billups and the fact that the former Pistons legend took years to figure out the point guard position and hope that Knight has the stuff to become like him.
The second feels that Knight is built more as a scoring guard. They point to the New Orleans Hornets' Eric Gordon as one of many examples of an undersized shooting guard that can score at will.
The third feels that Knight is a 'tweener that is destined to become a combo guard off of the bench. There are numerous cases of players like this doing well in this league, with recent Detroit exile Ben Gordon being one of them.
The last group is basically a combination of the first three, however they see him as a poor man's version of the above players and feel as though they should cut their losses and deal him for an additional pick or a player better suited to the Pistons' roster.
We shall explore these different potential roles for Knight and what his ceiling or basement comparisons could be.
Starting Point Guard
Ceiling: Terry Porter/Chauncey Billups
Basement: Lindsey Hunter/Eric Snow
Ideally speaking, Knight can develop into a game-changing point guard. This team needs to harness his abilities and this is a point guard driven league.
On the bright side, Knight has all the physical tools to become a very good lead guard. He is quick, has s fantastic handle and can hit the deep three-pointer.
However, right now he lacks the ideal instincts and court vision to become an effective point guard.
Obviously this draws comparisons to Billups. Chauncey took five or six years and countless teams before he figured out how to effectively run an NBA team. They both have similar skill sets and size, so a comparison to Billups is not out of the question.
Perhaps an even better comparison is Terry Porter. Porter also started out slow but eventually turned into one of the better point guards of the late 80s and early 90s.
On the flip side, there is a possibility that Knight never figures it out. I don't see him ever being a true bust, but there is the potential that he could be a few steps down the evolutionary ladder.
Eric Snow is someone that comes to mind due to his similar size and mental makeup. He eventually carved out a niche as a smart ball-handler and very good defender.
Obviously Lindsey Hunter is another player that comes to mind. He, like Knight, was drafted in the lottery to become the point guard of the future and replace an NBA Finals MVP.
Hunter also struggled with court vision and the instincts of a true point guard and eventually was shifted off of the ball.
In his later years, Hunter became one of the league's best perimeter defenders so it is hard to call him a bust.
However, the Pistons certainly were hoping for more from him.
Starting Shooting Guard
Ceiling: Monta Ellis/Jeff Malone
Basement: Dana Barros
There are a lot of reasons to like Knight off of the ball. He has the quickness to get his own shot at any time, he has the catch-and-shoot game to be an effective second option and he has proven his toughness as a defender.
That being said, he lacks the ideal size to effectively play the position.
A couple of players that came before him also struggled with the size issue, but carved out fantastic careers.
Monta Ellis is lightning quick and can score at will. He has put together a very good career of scoring the ball, although some can argue about how effective he truly is. His teams don't tend to win many games and he gives up as many points as he scores.
Jeff Malone was another player cut from this mold, albeit much earlier in the league.
However, both of these players showed that they could consistently string together 20-point performances.
On the other end of the effectiveness ladder is Dana Barros. Barros, a one-time Piston, was even smaller than Knight but became a deadly shooter and a lightning-quick scorer.
He always was a defensive liability as well, but made up for it with a quick release.
All three of these players are All-Star caliber players. At this point an All-Star berth is far from secured for Knight.
He shows a better knack for defense than any of these guys, but he also isn't nearly as consistent as them in scoring.
Sixth-Man Combo Guard
Ceiling: Jason Terry
Basement: Ben Gordon
In a lot of ways, this is the fallback position for Knight.
Should he prove ineffective at either guard spot, he could fall into this role.
Sure, there have been some truly effective bench combo guards, but it would be very disappointing should Knight fall to this level.
Jason Terry has developed into an effective player coming off of the bench over the course of the last decade.
Originally a shoot-first starting point guard, Terry eventually found his role as an instant-offense sixth man and now is one of the best at this role in the league.
In a lot of ways, Ben Gordon has been just as effective as Terry in this role, albeit less heralded.
But at this point in his career, he is a secondary scorer on the league's worst team, the Charlotte Bobcats.
Knight could certainly fall into this category, but this is certainly a last-ditch spot for him.
In this writer's opinion, there really are only two options for Knight. Either he develops into a starting point guard, or he falls to a bench combo guard.
He certainly has the heart to play off the ball, but he lacks the size. He has been severely beaten up this year trying to chase around bigger guards and could see his career shortened if he has to do it for years to come.
Now does this mean he can become a starting point guard? Certainly not. The history of basketball is littered with scoring guards from college that couldn't figure out how to run teams.
Knight has the mental acuity and strength of mind to develop, but he needs to make up for a lack of instincts.
After his rookie year, I saw him as a likely Lindsey Hunter clone and I haven't seen a ton to disprove this notion.
The key for Knight is to keep learning. If he can continue to at least try to improve, he should be able to eventually figure it out.
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