Knight is key to Bucks plan
The press conference was called to introduce Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton, but Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond stole the show. After all, it's been a long time since anyone associated with Bucks basketball talked about a championship caliber team.
Despite overhauling the roster and giving center Larry Sanders a long-term extension this summer, the key player to building any championship-caliber team at the Bradley Center will likely be Knight, the 21-year-old point guard and signature acquisition of the offseason for Hammond.
True, shooting guard O.J. Mayo may carry the bigger name and first round draft pick Giannis Antetokounmpo may carry the bigger upside, but Knight is what will make this work for the Bucks.
"I've had a chance to play and prepare against Brandon, and what he brings to the table is what a coach looks for, particularly at that position – the speed, the quickness, the ability to make shots, the ability to get into the lane, the ability to make other people better," Bucks head coach Larry Drew said.
"For me, it's important that that point guard is an extension of me because I put a lot on his shoulders and Brandon being 21 years old, it's going to be my job, it's going to my responsibility to take his game to another level."
Knight is 6-feet, 3-inches tall and a barrel chested 189 pounds. Last season, he took 30 percent of his shots at the rim, converting on 54 percent of them. Conversely, the point guard he was traded for – Brandon Jennings – took 24 percent of his shots at the rim and made just 49 percent.
He brings a physical nature to the point guard position Milwaukee has not seen since Sam Cassell. His stature also suits the current NBA game, a league that has transitioned into a point guard lead – especially in the Central Division and Eastern Conference.
That group is led by former league Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose (6-3, 190) in Chicago, Kyrie Irving (6-2, 180) in Cleveland, George Hill (6-2, 180) in Indiana and Deron Williams (6-3, 210) in Brooklyn.
Knight, who through two years has averaged 13.1 points, 4 assists and 2.6 turnovers in just 31.9 minutes per game, feels he's on the verge of being included in that conversation.
"I know I have the talent and the skill set and the physical stature to play with those guys," he said. "It's not a question. It's just a matter of me going out and doing it and having the opportunity to do so. It's a great situation for me and for the Bucks in general. We have a lot of new guys and we can grow together. I think we have a very good chance to be very good. I'm not going to say down the road, I think right away. As long as we come to work I'm not going to try to put off success. I'm going to try and expect it right away so that it can come faster."
Few players entered college with his high school pedigree, as he joined LeBron James and Greg Oden as the only two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year recipients in the award's history.
Then, in his one year at Kentucky, he led the Wildcats to the Final Four and was a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the best point guard in the country.
Detroit picked him No. 8 overall in the 2011 draft and he made the All-Rookie first team and was selected to the Rising Stars game over All-Star weekend.
No Bucks on the roster have that sort base, such predictors for superstardom, as Knight.
Yet coming out of Detroit, he had been cast as a combination guard, a Monta Ellis-type. It's a label Knight doesn't understand.
"I don't really know," he said. "I feel like that label is just thrown on. One person will say it and it'll catch fire. For me, I have to think about it realistically. You're calling me a shooting guard, so OK, I take it, I survey it, and look at the direction of point guards in the league, and most of them shoot. Probably lot more than I do. And a lot of them score the basketball. The top point guards in our league today are known as scorers, so, where it came from I'm not sure, but it's something that happens and I know I'm a point guard and that's how I'm approaching it."
While there may be questions about his ability to truly be a distributor – he averaged just four assists a game at Kentucky as well – and become an overall more efficient player (11.9 career Player Efficiency Rating and 0.3 offensive win shares the last two years), one thing no one can question is his will to compete.
"There's a lot of places I can improve. I'm not going to sit here and say I'm perfect. I can improve defensively, on pick and rolls I can improve. Offensively, I can improve on being more efficient. Those are three areas right off the top of my head that I know I've been working on. Even shooting at the free throw line. Decision making. There are lot of places I can improve and I embrace that. I know that I've taken steps this summer in those areas."
That went away when he challenged 6-11, 250 Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan in the paint on March 11.
It was, and will to continue to be, a "wow" moment but only because Knight went up for the ball too. It's something that earned him respect around the league.
"Brandon Knight is a tough player, man," Sanders said. "He plays really hard. Extremely hard. Every time I got a chance to play against him he's been a tough competitor."
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.