Detroit Pistons: Why Brandon Knight Is the Key to This Year's Success

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Detroit Pistons: Why Brandon Knight Is the Key to This Year's Success
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

It seems to me like we have been debating Brandon Knight, his role and his progress for five years now.

That is obviously impossible since he only just completed his second season in a Detroit Pistons uniform.

But the point remains, Knight has become perhaps the most divisive player in Detroit.

That being said, Knight is the key to not only this offseason for the Pistons, but their success in this upcoming year.

 

Role Confusion

The biggest problem stems from the confusion over Knight's role.

When he was drafted, the belief was that Knight was going to be the point guard of the future. He has the right build, pedigree and attitude.

There's just one problem—Knight hasn't shown the prerequisite skills to be a consistent point guard at the NBA level.

Sure, Knight has had his moments. We all know that he can score. He had over 20 games this season with 20 points or more.

But where Knight really struggles is setting up his teammates. This year, he had only two games of 10 assists or more, which is pretty much the standard for point guards. He ended up with a four assists per game average, which is well below what you want for a point guard.

Additionally, he had over two-and-a-half turnovers per game.

Now, this wouldn't be as big of a deal if Knight had shown some sort of improvement from his rookie year. But his assist and turnover numbers were nearly identical in his second year.

Furthermore, Knight's shooting percentage, three-point shooting percentage and free throw percentage all went down.

Obviously, this isn't all his fault. A mid-season trade saw the Pistons bring in Jose Calderon to take over the point guard role, pushing Knight to the shooting guard.

Knight handled the changing of his roles in stride. He never complained and instead took control of his own destiny on the court. He embraced his new role and never stopped playing hard.

But Knight really isn't suited for the shooting guard role either. He was between two and six inches shorter than most players he was forced to guard, and he typically gave up more than twenty pounds.

This led to Knight taking a pounding on a nightly basis, which certainly affected his ability to improve on offense.

Additionally, his assist numbers were bound to drop somewhat given that he no longer was asked to be a distributor.

But most people agree that Knight isn't ideally suited for the shooting guard role.

Some people, myself included, have floated the idea of Knight being a super-sub like Jason Terry and coming off the bench.

However, the Pistons don't currently have the right pieces to allow him to take on this role.

It appears that the only way for Knight to move forward with Detroit is as their point guard.

 

Knight Holds the Key to This Offseason

So, can Knight improve enough to be a serviceable point guard?

For Detroit, they are banking on him to do just exactly that.

There really is only one potential star point guard in this draft, Trey Burke, and he is likely to be off the board when the Pistons draft at no.8.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

That being said, it would be much more convenient for the Pistons to focus on filling a bigger position of need, such as small forward or shooting guard, and adding more athleticism to their team.

They also have a ton of cap space (likely in the neighborhood of $20 million) that they can play around with and use to fill additional holes, such as a backup point guard and size depth up front.

But this all hinges on Knight and his role moving forward for Detroit.

There are a few distressing things about Knight when it comes to whether or not he can play the lead guard in the NBA.

First, he lacks top-notch court vision. His passes tend to be a little methodical and even telegraphed at times. He is slow to recognize mismatches and too often looks to the bench for guidance in running the offense.

Second, he hasn't shown a consistent ability to shoot off the dribble, which is imperative for a starting point guard. He has a low release point that could be a problem in getting off his own shot.

But the biggest problem with Knight has to be his instincts.

It's as though he doesn't trust his own instincts when it comes to running the offense. This begs the question of whether or not he has the right instincts, or if the constant juggling of his role with the team has set him back.

Therefore, it will be imperative for the Pistons to bring in a head coach that has experience with point guards.

 

Priority No. 1 for the New Coach

Nate McMillan was at one point viewed as the most likely head coach in Detroit, but lately, it appears that he could be the top choice for the Los Angeles Clippers job.

The other coaches connected to the Pistons each have plenty of experience with point guards. Maurice Cheeks, Lindsey Hunter and Brian Shaw have each had their names thrown in the mix and each were point guards in the NBA.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The other top candidate, Mike Budenholzer, played professionally overseas but has been in the San Antonio Spurs organization since 1994 and has been their top assistant coach for the past five seasons. He has overseen the development of Tony Parker as well as George Hill, two of the four starting point guards still playing this season.

Another name that always jumps out when discussing point guard development in Detroit is Larry Brown, but it appears that he likely will not be under consideration for this job.

The Pistons need to develop a true team identity and that starts with the point guard.

If Knight can be developed into a good point guard at this level, then the Pistons can use their draft picks and cap space to address bigger needs. This will in turn allow them to build up a strong depth chart and move forward towards the ultimate goal of becoming a title contender again.

But Knight holds the key to all of this.

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