Note: This piece is the fourth part in a series that takes a look at Milwaukee’s point guard situation. Earlier this month, I took a look at 2nd year point guard Nate Wolters, who could potentially enter the upcoming season as a dark-horse threat to take control of the team’s starting point guard spot. In the fourth part of the series, we’re going to put the team’s current point guard, Brandon Knight, under examination to see if he has what it takes to maintain that spot.
A half-decade prior to the start of the potentially promising Giannis Antetokounmpo/Jabari Parker era, a small 6’1 guard held the keys to the Bucks future. While there was a certain amount of controversy that surrounded the team’s drafting of Brandon Jennings, his selection was an escape from the previous years, where they picked terrific athletes with a lack of basketball ability (Joe Alexander) or a player that didn’t even want to be in the city’s zip code (Yi Jianlian).
While that promise of him being a potential superstar rested in the minds of Bucks fans for his entire four-year stint with the team, Jennings wasn’t entirely able to fill the expectations that the team’s faithful had with him. But while the failure to reach those lofty goals left Jennings as a disappointment during his Bucks career, his departure allowed the organization to easily make the transition to his inevitable replacement.
When Milwaukee shipped Jennings off in a sign-and-trade deal with Detroit during the summer of 2013, they ended up acquiring his ultimate replacement in Brandon Knight. While the addition of Knight didn’t stir up the level of intrigue that Jennings did, the 21-year-old youngster entered Milwaukee with a bevy of potential and an immediate opportunity to make an impact.
By initially planting his feet into Milwaukee’s starting point guard role, Knight had to quickly learn how to progress both as a scorer and distributor while playing alongside an extremely limited amount of solid offensive weapons. While he did face a similar challenge during his time with Detroit, the situation in Milwaukee was noticeably worse, as fellow Pistons cast-off Khris Middleton was the team’s best offensive option.
Despite the team’s aforementioned flaws, Knight was still able to showcase himself as an above average distributor. During his initial season with the team, he had a 1.87 Ast/TO ratio, which topped the likes of Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans and Michael Carter-Williams. Similar to Carter-Williams, Knight was able to showcase his passing ability despite the weak supporting cast. He demonstrated an ability to regularly work around the opposition, cut to the paint and kick it out to the best available option. With that in mind, Knight has had his issues with preventing turnovers, which should decrease because of the progression of Milwaukee’s offense.
As we examine Knight’s all-around offensive arsenal, you can quickly tell that he still needs to take some steps to become an above-average scorer. While the lack of offensive weapons probably didn’t help with his progression as an offensive player, Knight failed to be consistent from any aspect of the court.
From the perimeter, Knight took a minor step back as he regressed from 36% in the 2012-13 season to 32% during his initial season in Milwaukee. With being the top scoring option in Milwaukee’s lineup, Knight put himself into a multitude of tough situations on the perimeter, where he had to shoot in high-pressure situations.
Even though his regression from the perimeter is a definite negative in his overall offensive game, he did progress in other ends. A prime example of that rests on him becoming more aggressive as a cutter. Not only did that allow him to utilize his athleticism around the rim, but Knight was also able to work to the free-throw line on a more consistent basis. Per 36 minutes, Knight was able to get to the charity stripe around seven times which is a huge improvement over how he was during his time with Detroit.
With the continued emphasis on cutting to the rim, Knight should be able to help the progression of the Bucks lineup. The main reason for that that is because the comfort level that Knight showcases when cutting to the paint. Because of how effective he’s been inside the paint, the opposition would be more zoned in to his movements, which would allow Knight to kick it out to an open teammate. That particular skill is definitely going to be utilized with the likes of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be looked at as the cornerstones of the team’s offense.
From a defensive perspective, Brandon Knight definitely keeps with that aforementioned label of being a “mixed bag”. While he’s consistently able to use his quickness to work past the opposition on the offensive end, that ability isn’t fully able to make that transition to defense. On a semi-regular basis, opposing guards were able to work their way past Knight as they moved their way to the rim.
While those issues as a perimeter defender definitely puts a negative impact on his defensive reputation, he’s still solid on other ends of the spectrum. A prime example of that rests on his skills in the pick-and-roll, which is probably his strongest defensive trait. Knight consistently showcased a veteran instinct when it came to deciding to whether work under or over the opposition’s screens which allows him to stick by his man.
Brandon Knight’s second season with Milwaukee will probably be the most important one of his young career. While his potential improvement as an all-around player will be at center focus during the upcoming season, the pressure will be mounted with both Kendall Marshall and Nate Wolters breathing down his neck. Even though Wolters is probably best in his current role with the team’s second unit, the addition of Marshall could make things more interesting. Biggest reason for that rests on his work as a distributor and unique 6’6 frame makes him into an extremely intriguing possibility.
With all of that in mind, Knight should enter the season as Milwaukee’s starting point guard. While there will definitely be pressure on his shoulders, Knight will still get an opportunity to showcase his skills and improve as an all-around player.