Brandon Knight is one of the more intriguing prospects of the 2011 NBA Draft. He has enough potential to become the best player from his class, yet he is much further down the pecking order in the ‘sure thing’ department. But at the same time, he elicits a great deal of confidence in his game and his absolute worst case scenario for me is as one of the best two or three backup point guards in the NBA.
While acknowledging his potential limitations as a player, I fully expect Knight to be a highly functional starting point guard that will be one of the best three or four players on his team.
Beyond his physical profile as a bigger point guard with above average athleticism, the first area where Knight shows NBA quality talent is his control with the dribble.
He doesn’t have John Wall-like speed in the open floor, but he is solidly in that second order of quickness with the dribble. Knight is somewhat sophisticated in going to the ball for outlet passes after defensive rebounds and immediately looks to push the tempo. All the while, Knight remains extremely controlled and maintains good court vision.
Knight will shift around with the dribble in the halfcourt a little bit like a running back given his strong balance and explosion. He has a great ability to cover lateral ground to get into space.
Knight moves well without the ball and is especially remarkable on a curl on the left side that leads to a hesitation dribble and runner with his left hand. This is one of Knight’s several NBA style moves he already has in his arsenal.
Knight really likes runners and I imagine he will likely be overly reliant on those against big NBA defenders during his first 100-150 games on the next level.
He has good ability on the pick and roll, understanding the nuances of the concept. But more impressive off the dribble is Knight’s ability to beat his man in isolation.
Like most young point guards, Knight will need to improve his perimeter jumper. The mechanics of his shot demonstrate a good foundation, with a clean follow-through even though there is a little too much action with his off hand. He has a quick release and he prepares his hands ahead of the catch to give passers a target for where he wants it.
Even though his mechanics show promise, he doesn’t have complete control over those mechanics. Knight clearly needs more reps to achieve the consistency required to become a reliable shooter.
Furthermore, Knight will lift only a few inches off the ground on his perimeter jumper. His lack of putting his legs into his shot artificially makes it longer than it needs to be and therefore more difficult to keep accurate.
While Knight certainly needs improvement as a shooter, he actually shoots it encouragingly well on his catch-and-shoot attempts.
I project him developing into a 30%-35% shooter on his three-point attempts over time. This number could tick up closer to 40% if he limits his attempts from distance off the dribble, which is something he simply doesn’t do very well right now.
As a defensive player, Knight has the physical attributes and high motor to be excellent, but his production put him slightly below average. I believe his problems are a result of being a little too eager and overplaying his man.
Knight gives really good effort with highly active hands and is very obviously motivated on that end of the floor. He should also be able to guard most shooting guards, along with point guards obviously and we have seen how valuable that type of versatility can be for his predecessors such as Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday.
He has good awareness of team defense concepts, feeling and anticipating where screens are going to come from and he also seems to be spaced appropriately between his man and the ball. He is also willing to draw charges, which is fairly impressive for a player his age who came out of high school rated so highly.
The biggest complaint I have besides being a little too eager is that his recovery when his man gets past his hip could be better.
While he isn’t all the way there for the above reasons, Knight’s ability to be a plus-defender virtually guarantees he will be a useful NBA player in a reserve role even if he almost completely stagnates in his offensive development.