It was clear the Milwaukee Bucks had chosen their point guard of the future when they traded for Brandon Knight over the summer. Now, head coach Larry Drew must get the most he can out of Knight and help him reach his potential.
Knight struggled with the Detroit Pistons, due in part to a cluttered backcourt. However, by playing to Knight's strengths, Drew can get solid production out of the young point guard.
How is that possible?
Some of it is dependent on the players surrounding Knight, but plenty has to do with the plays and game plans Drew draws up.
Utilizing O.J. Mayo as a Ball-handler
It's important for Knight to become the team's floor general, but that doesn't mean Drew should neglect the passing and ball-handling ability of O.J. Mayo.
The 25-year-old shooting guard averaged a career-high 5.1 assists last season for the Dallas Mavericks and is more than adequate in directing an offense—in fact, he probably prefers it that way.
Milwaukee didn't have a ton of success with two backcourt players needing the ball last season, but this scenario is different because both Knight and Mayo have shown they can play off the ball.
According to Synergy Sports, Knight was extremely successful in 2012-13 when receiving handoffs and cutting to the hoop:
|2012-13 Plays in Which Knight was Most Efficient|
|Play Type||%Time||Points Per Possession||FG%||%Score|
Transition plays accounted for a hefty amount of Knight's offense, but the areas in which he is most efficient weren't utilized as much as they should have been.
As coach of the Atlanta Hawks, Drew ran a lot of pick-and-rolls between two big men, Josh Smith and Al Horford. One would think he can tap into that creativity and run a quality two-man game with Knight and Mayo.
With Knight's great athleticism and the ability to finish at the rim, Drew needs to find a way to get him those kinds of looks more often.
Getting Knight Clean Looks
Developing a consistent jump shot is the next step in Knight's evolution as an offensive player. Looking at the numbers, it's safe to say that he falls somewhere between good and bad.
But is he better or worse than Brandon Jennings?
One thing is certain, he definitely doesn't rely on the jumper as much as his predecessor did.
In 2012-13, Knight took a total of 606 jump shots while Jennings launched a staggering 994. That's a sign that Knight is a more aggressive and values higher-percentage looks.
However, getting to the basket via cuts and drives isn't always available and, in those instances, he'll have to be able to consistently hit perimeter shots.
Getting clean looks increases the likelihood of that happening.
Anyone who watched the Bucks a season ago probably was frustrated over the number of contested jumpers Jennings and Monta Ellis took. Off-balance, challenged shots were commonplace and were reflected in the team's 43.5 shooting percentage.
The video above—taken from his career-best scoring game—demonstrates that when Knight has space to shoot, he can knock down shots.
That's something which is probably true with every player, but for players who struggle with consistency, nothing can turn things around more than getting wide-open looks.
Given the other talent Milwaukee has on offense—Caron Butler, Ersan Ilyasova and Mayo—it shouldn't be too much for Drew to figure out an offensive structure to take advantage of his players' skills.
If Drew can get his point guard good looks—and Knight can knock them down consistently—the former Kentucky Wildcat should have a successful first season for the Bucks.
It sounds cliche, but positive reinforcement will play a vital role in how Knight develops.
During his two seasons with the Pistons, there was never any real stability in terms of the team's backcourt situation, and he was never fully given the reins.
Now, he is without question, the future point guard in Milwaukee.
That's something Drew needs to emphasize throughout the entire season. It's important for Knight to understand that the Bucks made an investment in him and—aside from being sidelined by injury—he shouldn't have to worry about being replaced in the lineup.
Being just 21 years old, that fact probably isn't lost on him either.
It would be easy to chalk up Knight's slow start to him just not being that great of a player, but when you watch him play, you can see that he has an upside. He possesses strength and athleticism—physical attributes that could allow him to succeed at a high level.
Simply put, his lack of development in Detroit may have just been a classic case of a player being in a poor situation.
We'll see if that turns out to be the case this season and in the future. But in order to keep getting the most he can out of Knight, Drew must cater to the point guard's strengths.
If he does, it may confirm Knight's status as the team's future at point guard.