The writing is not quite on the wall for young Brandon Knight, but to say he has been somewhat underwhelming during his tenure in Detroit would be accurate, which is an underwhelming way of stating something quite obvious. A year after taking advantage of Golden State’s still curious selection of Ekpe Udoh over Greg Monroe, Dumars and the Detroit braintrust were looking to inject some new talent into their guard rotation and selected Brandon Knight with the 8th pick in the 2011 Draft. So far so good right? Apparently not. Apparently Brandon Knight just hasn’t blossomed the exact right way yet.
Each draft seems to have its share of “sure thing” NBA quality players and late first round and second round diamonds in the rough. The middle of the lottery, where Knight was selected, is a bit harder to figure and this is where the real feast or famine of the draft is. Do you go for upside? Need? A combination of the two that amounts to wishful thinking? It is always painful to a team seeing players you skipped over thrive. Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Chandler Parsons, any of them would slide into starting roles on this team, and each was selected after Knight. This is not Brandon Knight’s fault. He has made the most of the anarchy that surrounds him and gives the game everything he has. Dude broke his nose! And that attempt to block DeAndre Jordan was a moment of valor fit for Valhalla.
So Brandon Knight is a tough enough guy and he’s certainly not a bad player.
But did anything about Knight’s college career convince Dumars and Company that this svelte high scoring combo-guard would be able to add stability to a backcourt already flush with undersized gunners? And again, this isn’t Brandon’s fault. He’s young and I don’t have any place telling him who exactly he is in the grand scheme, but I’d hate for his upside to be a rich man’s version of Jonny Flynn. Please spare him that, basketball Gods. It also didn’t help that his first season was impacted by the lockout, or that Detroit traded for Jose Calderon, a point guard’s point guard (he can throw alley-oops without a screen!), and thus shoved Knight into the nebulous “he’s only a guard” territory that Rodney Stuckey has toiled in since his rookie year.
Dumars and Mo Cheeks have both recently killed Knight with kindness, hedging on pinning down his position, but saying he possessed the skills of both guard positions, though what exactly his point guard bona-fides are they forgot to say. Maybe that he happens to be six-foot-three! Even before Dumars and Cheeks, former head coach Lawrence Frank made this a typical talking point, saying he didn’t feel comfortable classifying Knight. One imagines a secret room thick with cigar smoke where the Pistons ownership and management think of new ways to only somewhat delicately declare that Knight is not a point guard. In a league that absolutely treasures “true” point guards and looks upon undersized shooting guards with barely veiled contempt, Brandon Knight must be saying, “This is not the sort of thing to inspire confidence in my place in the universe!”
And so the draft approaches and the Pistons appear to be eyeing guards once again. Maybe it’ll be Victor Oladipo. Maybe point guard Trey Burke would welcome an extended stay in the great state of Michigan. Does A Boy Named Kim English get to play? Jose Calderon could very well return. Detroit could swing for a shooting guard in Free Agency. Maybe sharpshooter J.J. Redick. Maybe Monta Ellis, the Charizard to Knight’s Charmander. Maybe try (but likely fail) for the half-court heave to reunite Mo Cheeks with Andre Igoudala. Almost all these options seem more attractive to the new regime than sticking it out with Brandon and letting him grow (not to six-foot-four).
According to a recent Detroit News article, Cheeks flat-out said, “To say (Knight) can just be a point guard, I don’t think so.”
Grim assessment! And if Brandon Knight thinks of himself as a point guard (and he does), and knows that the Pistons drafted him to be their point guard of the future (he does), quotes like that can’t feel very good.
It never feels good to be told what you can’t be.