Breaking Down What Brandon Knight Will Bring to Milwaukee Bucks as Franchise PG
The Milwaukee Bucks apparently have a thing for franchise point guards named Brandon.
After the Brandon Jennings experiment didn't make too many teams "Fear the Deer," general manager John Hammond sent him to the Detroit Pistons in a sign-and-trade deal that brought Brandon Knight into the fold.
As part of the trade, the Pistons also sent center Slava Kravtsov and forward Khris Middleton to the Bucks. Jennings was promptly signed to a three-year, $24 million contract.
Now the Bucks have a new franchise floor general for the future, even if it will take a while for the rebuilding process to put this squad back in playoff contention.
So, Bucks fans might be wondering, what exactly does Knight bring to the table?
Great Cutting Skills
Right now, Knight's primary offensive contributions come from cutting, whether he's doing so behind a screen while receiving a handoff or aiming at the basket and waiting to receive a pass.
Take a look at Synergy Sports' (subscription required) numbers for the Kentucky product in those two situations:
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In 2012-13, Knight didn't use these two elite skills as often as the Pistons would have liked. They combined for only 8.8 percent of his offensive plays, and that number should rise rather significantly with his new team.
Knight is an incredible athlete, possessing elite quickness both with and without the ball as well as some great leaping skills. When he makes use of these tools, he's at his best, and this will be especially apparent when he's playing alongside O.J. Mayo.
The former Dallas Maverick can help space the court for him and allow him to focus on attacking the rim with even more frequency. Mayo is also a player who likes having the ball in his hands, so that will help promote Knight's cuts too.
More than anything else, it's the first step that helps him thrive cutting to the basket. Take a look at this play against the Cleveland Cavaliers, one that Kyrie Irving probably wishes was deleted from the Internet forever.
What? You thought Irving always got the best of Knight?
This play involves multiple cuts, and the first sees Knight using Kyle Singler's screen—one Irving has to go around—in order to free himself for a wide-open pass on the right wing.
He receives the ball with some open space but doesn't fire away.
Knight's three-point shot has improved, but it's still not one of the true strengths of his game. He has another play in mind, and it requires Greg Monroe flashing out to the high post.
The guard immediately hits Monroe with a chest pass and sets up a cut to the hoop. At this point, Irving is still in terrific guarding position, forcing Knight away from the ball and toward the baseline.
It doesn't matter, because Knight's first step is just too quick. Take a look at the ridiculous amount of space that the former Wildcat has already created.
Irving is way too far behind to have any impact on this play, and the pass is incredibly easy for Monroe to make.
Now, to be fair, Monroe is one of the league's best passing centers, and Larry Sanders is not. But if Knight can consistently put this large a gap between himself and his defender, even Nikola Pekovic could feed him the ball with ease.
The play results in a dunk, and it's not even close to being stopped. Irving doesn't even bother pursuing him to the basket because he knows that he got completely burned with just one jab step and cut.
Expect to see quite a bit of this throughout Knight's career with the Bucks.
His impact is by no means limited to the offensive end of the court, though. If anything, Knight's primary strength involves defense.
He has a lot of work to do on this front, but Knight's long arms, athleticism and instincts already make him a great point-preventer. While he struggles to navigate pick-and-roll sets, he's a great isolation defender and tends to make his team significantly better on the less glamorous end of the court.
Below you can see a visual representation of how many points per 100 possessions the Pistons allowed with him on and off the court, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
While Detroit was worse defensively when Knight played during his rookie season, that quickly changed during his sophomore campaign. He held opposing point guards and shooting guards to respective PERs of 11.2 and 12.7, according to 82games.com, and also played great team defense.
One huge strength is Knight's ability to recover to his man quickly. It lets him play well off his mark, getting into the passing lanes and disrupting the opposing team's plays without fear of paying for his gamble.
Above you can see just how far he lets Kemba Walker slide away from him. Doing so allows him to prevent a Gerald Henderson drive into the interior of the defense, and he's still able to recover to Walker and force a turnover that leads to an easy fast-break opportunity.
A hidden benefit, though it didn't come into play here, is that doing so allows Andre Drummond to focus on his man rather than hedging to help on Henderson and creating an easy roll opportunity.
Knight can still be thrown off his game by some fancy dribbling moves, and he has to get better when he runs into a screen, but he's already an impactful defender who will make Larry Sanders' job easier.
The big man was an elite rim-protector during his breakout season (2.83 blocks per game) even while dealing with the porous perimeter defense of both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. He's going to love not having to keep his head on a swivel quite as often.
So Much Scoring Potential
Knight is coming off a season in which he averaged 13.3 points per game, and he did so with a jumper that occasionally borders on broken.
The Kentucky product wasn't a terrible shooter, but he did only make 35 percent of his jump shots in 2012-13. He wasn't much better when isolated to spot-up shooting, as Synergy reveals that he scored 0.99 points per possession, good for No. 153 in the league.
In fact, he shot just 35.9 percent on spot-up jumpers and was actually better from three-point range than he was inside the arc.
Everything can be fixed with a little offseason work, though.
Knight's form doesn't always look good, as he releases the ball from below the chin and has a bit of a line-drive trajectory. The more arc you can get on a shot, the easier it is to get the ball to drop through the rim.
That's just how geometry works.
What is Knight's ceiling?
The former Wildcat was quite obviously working on this throughout his sophomore season. At the end of the year, his misses looked much better. They were clanging off the front of the rim but right on target, an indication that he was trying to get more loft on his shot.
Once this jumper is working and he can pair it with his dynamic driving and cutting abilities, Knight has the potential to become an elite scorer in the NBA.
This will take time, and it's important that the Bucks remember to remain patient. Their new franchise point guard has a great deal to work on, but he's still full of potential and only 21 years old.
Knight will bring a lot to the table during his first year in Milwaukee, and yet that will pale in comparison to his future output if everything goes according to plan.
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