This is part of a SLCDunk series of articles on players who we stanned for when they were drafted by the Utah Jazz or who we wanted to be drafted by the Utah Jazz, but never had the success we boasted they would.
The 2011 NBA draft was a confusing one. There didn’t seem to be much consensus except that Kyrie Irving would be the #1 pick. What seemed to be at least semi-clear, though, was that either Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker would be the next point guard to go. I planted my flag firmly in Brandonistan, (Knightistan? BrandKnightistan?) and was a bit disappointed when they drafted Enes Kanter at the #3 spot instead. We were all looking for the point guard of the future, and I thought Knight could fill that role.
Many articles have been written about Kanter, and I’ve made several passes at him in unrelated articles. But what of Brandon Knight, who went to the Detroit Pistons at #7? Before I took on this piece, I assumed he was a bust, because I knew he didn’t stick with the Pistons, didn’t stick with the Bucks, and was basically a 3rd-string ball-handler with Phoenix. So, why has he gone from No. 2/No.3 point guard prospect in 2011 to embattled NBA journeyman in 2011? Let’s take a look.
The Eye Test
There are just so many of his plays that made blooper reels like this one, as well as more mainstream ones such as Shaqtin’ a Fool:
He was #1 and #2 in this episode (that was a foul on Pekovic)
Stats (Basketball Reference)
In this image, I’ve highlighted his career totals, his totals during the past three seasons with the Phoenix Suns, and single-season career highs. It seems to me that his best year was during the 2015-16 season when he averaged 36 minutes per game, averaging 19.6 points, (on 17.2 shots) 3.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists over 50 starts. Nearly 20 ppg sounds great, but not on 17 shots. That means he’s a chucker. Indeed, his FG% never rose above 42.2%. Just for fun, let’s look at another guy, Trey Burke, for comparison. I was solidly in Treyburkeistan, and he’s turned out to be an even bigger disappointment than Knight. Here’s a quick glance:
I won’t go too deep here, because I know that others will be covering Trey Burke, but it seems that Knight has had an objectively better career so far than Trey. Also a chucker, streaky shooter, prone to silly mental errors.
Takes from Other Blogs:
Detroit Bad Boys
The players often have no harsher critics than their own fans. After all, their fans are the ones who pay money to see them play. They want a good product, and when the players are slumping many fans take it as a personal insult, right or wrong. So, here’s a paragraph about Mr. Knight from Mike Payne of Detroit Bad Boys written as a preview to Knight’s sophomore NBA season:
Knight entered the league in a dream scenario-- he joined a team without a point guard that needed him for heavy minutes right away. He led all rookies in minutes played and shot attempts, a right usually reserved to the cream of the crop draftees. Just look at the last few years of Rookie of the Year voting-- the guy who gets the most burn and the most touches usually always wins. Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, etc. Yet every once in a while, you get your Adam Morrisons in there shooting out of their minds to score 12 points on 12 attempts. When given these kinds of opportunities, some players flourish, others flounder. Brandon Knight floundered.
He went on to say that Knight was “wildly inconsistent” as a rookie, and that he needed to improve “individual offense, individual defense, team offense, ball handling, consistency.” So pretty much everything.
Bucks fans liked Brandon Knight more than the folks in the Motor City. They caped for him to be an all-star, and were usually at least somewhat happy with his production, from what I can gather. In fact, during the 2014-15 season, BrewHoop anointed him the season MVP of their team:
Corey Gloor: I admire my colleagues trying to branch out in certain places, but it's Brandon Knight. Can it be frustrating to watch him? Absolutely, he's so much better shooting in off-the-ball situations than he is when he's in control. And he tends to pull up for jumpers a bit too much. But when he's got the offense in a flow, and especially in the fast break, Knight has been the key to this team playing as well as they have been.
When the Bucks traded Knight to Phoenix for Michael Carter-Williams, Dan Sinclair wrote that while the Bucks would miss Knight’s shooting, (he was having a good year at that point) MCW’s passing made him the clear choice.
Bright Side of the Sun
Knight is in an awkward spot in Phoenix. He’s decent, but not good enough to justify playing in the point guard spot above Eric Bledsoe or, much less, Devin Booker. Stats-wise, he’s not the worst player ever there. However, let’s look at what Dave King of BSOTS thought at the end of last year:
But possibly worst of all, Knight has a penchant for making the worst decisions at the worst times. When you're the subject of youtube video compilations of your dumbest attempts to dissuade ball handlers from the hoop, or centers from the dunk, you're going to be the subject of criticism.
. . . But is Brandon Knight really that bad a player?
Sure he's shooting a terrible FG% this season. He's shooting only 41% this year, and just 37% since returning from injury. He's posting a career high in scoring, but also in turnovers per game.
But he's been a very good all-around player too. Just Monday night, he posted his 5th 30-point game of the season, and has the Suns only triple-double this year.
Here’s the mood after this year. This was written a few days ago:
Last season Knight averaged 11.0 ppg, 2.4 apg, 2.2 rpg and had a PER of 12.41. His advanced stats were even worse. As a sixth man "microwave" scorer off the bench he flopped... badly. He had the worst season of his career. But he at least had one good moment in the 2016-17 season that most Suns fans have probably forgotten... 32 points vs Denver on November 16, 2016.
. . .All things considered, Knight is not a bad player but he's just not a really good NBA point guard. He's a combo guard and scoring is what he does best.
. . .I think that Knight has the potential to rebuild some of his trade value this season if the Suns use him correctly. Play him as the backup shooting guard, not the backup point guard. He might even prove to be an asset that they want to keep if they put him in the correct role.
After doing more research, I have to agree with the good people at Bright Side of the Sun. He’s not a great NBA player, but he’s not soul-crushingly awful, which means that he's not the kind of player you want to “stan” for. It's not like he's Jimmer Fredette or anything, but he’s not even close to the playet I once hoped he would be.