Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: Brandon Knight
Height/Weight: 6’4/180 lbs.
NBA Position: Point Guard
Projected Draft Range: High Lottery
Overview: It may have only been a single-season college career, but what a season for Brandon Knight. By leading his team in scoring (17.3 PPG), assists (4.2 APG), minutes (35.9 MPG), and late-game NCAA Tournament heroics (just ask Princeton, West Virginia and Ohio State), Knight did something nobody thought he could ever do when the 2010-11 season started: erase the collective longing of the Big Blue Nation for John Wall to have stayed for his sophomore year. The comparisons stopped just a few games into the season, and for good reason — the two are (gasp) quite different players, which most observers deduced early. But for all the strengths Wall had as a collegian, one of the areas where Knight was more effective than his predecessor was perimeter shooting. It might be called the Dribble Drive, but John Calipari’s system works best when the point guard can shoot. Knight’s ability to keep defenders honest and drain outside shots may be one of the biggest reasons he has something else John Wall doesn’t: a trip to the Final Four.
With Improved Decision-Making, Knight Has All-Star Potential
Will Translate to the NBA: There’s no need to save Brandon a seat in the green room on draft night. He might as well just stand, since won’t be there very long. Even with such a diverse skill set, there are three things (above all others) that his new employers will love. First, he’s got a sweet first step that he uses when defenders get a little too honest. Second, he’s got that great combination of intelligence and coachability that instructors at the next level salivate over. Finally, he’s 19. Brandon Knight is already a top-flight prospect and he’s not even close to realizing his full potential. This is all on top of the aforementioned reliable outside jumper, a genuine concern for his own defensive prowess that belies his age, and a love for stepping up and making big plays at big moments.
Needs Work: It got a little better in the NCAA Tournament, but one of things Knight took a lot of heat about from John Calipari all season long was his tendency to want to make the occasional “high school pass,” meaning a pass to a teammate that may have worked in high school but simply wouldn’t fly in college. This is a habit that won’t be tolerated with this next step up in class. While Knight has the aggressive mindset to want to drive down the lane and dunk over a crowd, he lacks the leaping ability to do so. And the only negative about him being so young is that his body isn’t finished developing; he’ll need to stay in the weight room and get that upper body filled out if he wants to avoid getting manhandled by bigger, stronger opponents (which most of them will be).
Comparison Players: Imagine any number of pretty good combo guards and you have Knight’s comparison player. From Jason Terry to Bobby Jackson to Jrue Holiday to Devin Harris, just picture a guy who can create for himself as well as run the team in a pinch. The defining characteristic is that each of these players can score the ball by calling their own number. Even though none of the above is a traditional point guard in the mold of Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, they can also distribute the ball and they’re all talented enough to find minutes for just about any rotation in the NBA.
Best Case Scenario: The best thing that could happen to Brandon Knight is for him to end up on a team with an experienced point guard so he can be brought along more slowly. He’s going to have a nice NBA career, there’s no doubt about that, but if he’s forced into playing too many minutes for a bad team early on, he won’t become the complete player that he has the potential to be. He’d be best served to play for a team that will allow him to get meaningful minutes as the second fiddle for a few years before handing him the keys. The All-Star Game — indeed, a few stops there — is by no means out of the realm of possibility. If he’s forced to play too much too soon for a struggling team, though, he could very well join that long grim line of combo-guards who never found their niche and lost their edge long before anyone thought they would. Let’s not think about right now. The section is called “Best Case Scenario,” after all.
2014 Projection: The three-year mark is where he should be getting significant, meaningful minutes. It might not be with the team that drafts him, but this is where his identity as a guard in the NBA will begin to emerge. It’s important to see that we’re using the word “begin,” there. He’ll be just 22.
Best NBA Fit: As mentioned above, the ideal fit would be somewhere that already has an established point guard at the position, but given that Knight is projected in the high lottery, that’s an unlikely scenario for him. Now that Deron Williams is no longer in Utah, he may be headed to Salt Lake City and the Jazz with the #3 overall pick; or, he could be headed north of the border to Toronto at the #5 selection, an interesting locale for a kid from Florida to land. He’ll get major minutes from day one if he lands with either team, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best fit for him in either case. He’s unlikely to fall beyond the top five, though.
Scout’s Take (Chris Denker from Netscouts Basketball): “good all-around player, but not a point guard in my book… made big shots for his team… he rebounds for a guard… but he won’t be a two — I see him more of a Daniel Gibson type.”