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Brandon Knight’s uphill climb as a top scoring guard

Brandon Knight still leads the Pistons in assists per game – 4.4 to Jose Calderon’s 3.0.

And Calderon leads the Pistons’ guards in points per game – 15.0 to Knight’s 13.8.

But I suspect both those leaders will flip in the near future as Calderon plays more as point guard and Knight plays more at shooting guard.

We already have a pretty good idea what Calderon, in his eighth NBA season, can do as a point guard.  But what about Knight at shooting guard? He hasn’t played that role next to someone like Calderon before, so it’s a bit of a mystery. Before Knight gets too far along in the process, I want to set a baseline for his ability as a scoring guard.

In looking for a sample of players similar to the role Knight will likely have going forward, I set two guidelines:

  • They lead their team’s backcourt players in points per game.
  • They do not lead their team in assists per game.

There are 15 such players plus Knight. I’m measuring their scoring by both volume (points per 36 minutes) and efficiency (true shooting percentage).

No player in the sample both averages fewer points per 36 minutes and has a lower true shooting percentage than Knight.

I won’t get deeply into Knight’s problems as a distributing guard other than to offer a quick summary: turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Taking the ball out of Knight’s hands won’t make him a better passer and ball-handler, but it will limit the number of Pistons’ possessions that end with a turnover.

But I also worry Knight lacks the skills to be a quality scoring guard right now. Of course, he’s still young and developing, but I’m not focused on that aspect at the moment.

The biggest difference for Knight the rest of this season will be playing next to Calderon. Knight will get the ball in different spots and will have different plays run for him.

Will this change Knight’s production? Maybe. Maybe not.

Knight has not played like a quality scoring guard so far this season, but the Pistons have also asked him to be more of a playmaker. Without that burden, perhaps his scoring will improve, but I’m not optimistic.

I think Knight’s skillset – the one that produced his current numbers – weighs more heavily than his role change, but we’ll get a much better idea soon enough.

17 Comments

  • Feb 6, 201312:04 pm
    by DasMark

    Reply

    This is a fun exercise. It will allow us to gauge Knight’s performance post-Calderon trade and evaluate with raw statistics if the shooting guard position is a fit for him with this Pistons squad. 

  • Feb 6, 20131:03 pm
    by Slap Dog Hoops

    Reply

    It will be interesting to see them both play together.  Last night’s 3 assists for Calderon was just a fluke. Watch Calderon to come back playing stronger. 

  • Feb 6, 20131:13 pm
    by Big Rick

    Reply

    “I think Knight’s skillset – the one that produced his current numbers – weighs more heavily than his role change, but we’ll get a much better idea soon enough.”

    So Patrick are you saying that you think Knight is perhaps a better point guard prospect than shooting guard or scoring guard? Or are you saying that no matter what position he plays in the backcourt that his skillset is transferrable and he will produce?

    Just trying to interpret your last statement.

    • Feb 6, 20131:32 pm
      by Keith

      Reply

      I think what he’s really saying is that Knight hasn’t actually been very good at anything thus far. He’s been inefficient as a scorer and turnover-prone as a playmaker. Shifting Knight to SG is probably not going to suddenly make a bad (and yes, he’s below replacement level) player into a good one.

    • Feb 6, 20131:50 pm
      by Crispus

      Reply

      Dan wrote this post. Dan writes most of the stat-driven entries.

  • Feb 6, 20131:47 pm
    by Big Rick

    Reply

    Nice breakdown Keith. Thanks.

    • Feb 6, 20131:57 pm
      by Keith

      Reply

      No problem. I do think Knight can be a little better with this move, if only because it seems to align better with his natural inclinations. That said, he’s a terrible finisher at the rim, and his outside shooting is in no way elite. 37% from three is above league average, but not even close to being a huge threat. Maybe with more shots and a more precise focus he’ll get a better rhythm going, but there’s little evidence to suggest it.
       
      Current Brandon Knight is a backup combo guard at best. Perhaps he develops more in the future, but at this point it’s worth questioning if there’s any significant role he can fill. I think this experiment with Calderon is a very useful on in that respect. Knight was a bad PG and showed very little development this year. If he fails as a SG as well, it gives the team the authority to say they have no back-court spots earmarked and can draft/sign free agents without worry of overloading a single position.

      • Feb 6, 20132:51 pm
        by I HATE FRANK

        Reply

        Not gonna defend knight…but I just dont agree…

  • Feb 6, 20132:32 pm
    by Nick N

    Reply

    I believe Knight will be a solid SG.I think the knicks are just his kryptonite LOL. I would rather see Knight shooting an open 3 than Stuckey.

  • Feb 6, 20132:46 pm
    by sloppy joe

    Reply

    This move is going to expose Knight for what he is.

    You all wanted to see how he could handle SG.  Well I think we are going to find out that his struggles will continue.  Knight is best suited on the bench or on another teams roster.

    It’s not like Frank is going to exclusively play knight at the second guard slot.  He will probably end up manning the point for 10 minutes plus a game, which is just enough time for him to get his fix of turnovers.

    If we want to get back to contender level.  Every starting spot aside from PF and C will need to be filled by players that are not currently on the roster.

  • Feb 6, 20132:48 pm
    by Vic

    Reply

    I think knight has been a square peg in a round hole. Once he gets a chance to see how the square hole feels his efficiency will go up the last couple months of the season. He’ll be in better next year, because I think you put on some more muscle and focus on being a scorer over the summer.

    That being said, you still gotta draft BPA at the guard/forward:

    Round 1:
    Mclemore
    Porter
    Burke
    Mitchell
    Oladipo

    Round 2:
    Carrick Felix
    Adreian Payne
    Andre Roberson
    Nate Wolters
     

  • Feb 6, 20133:05 pm
    by DG

    Reply

    It will be good to take a look at Knight as both 2 guard and perhaps 6th man roles with Stuckey manning the 2 guard spot.  Then Frank should know if either or both guys need to go by the end of the year and what their strengths are on the Pistons.  It will give the Pistons a better idea of how to spend their upcoming free agency money.  

    They really need to resolve the PG, SG and SF positions between Knight, Stuckey and potential players they may add via draft and/or free agency.  Right now it looks like the most potential with existing players is at the SG and/or third guard positions.  If Calderon proves that the offense does indeed flow better, as many suspect, with a pure PG, then they can either re-sign him or go after another PG via trade, draft (Burke, please – he is very efficient with low turnovers) or free agency.  Then they probably need a SF that compliments the SG.  Stuckey would function better next to a floor spacer, etc.

  • Feb 6, 20135:11 pm
    by Scott Free

    Reply

    Just a thought.  If Calderone’s assists don’t go up near Toronto levels, will anyone here admit how hard it is for Brandon Knight to draw an assist from this squad?

    • Feb 6, 20136:54 pm
      by DG

      Reply

      If Will Bynum played the same minutes as Knight, he would be averaging 6.4 assists to Knights 4.4 assists.  The issue with Knight isn’t only assists, though.  It’s his high rate of turnovers.  His assist/turnover ratio is very low for a point guard (1.5).

  • Feb 6, 20135:34 pm
    by Clint in Flint

    Reply

    I don’t think anything is going to be fixed until you fix the coaching problem. The man has been the coach for 1 1/2 years and I don’t see any improvement, we are still so far back that you need a search party to find us.

  • Feb 8, 20133:33 am
    by justme

    Reply

    No way!!! Knight should NOT be our regular starting SG! Id rather trade him first. If theres one thing ive learned over the last 5 years its that we dont do well with undersized SG’s. Heres an idea: trade him along with Khris Middleton to OKC for Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, and the 2013 1st rd pick from Toronto. We get a bigger SG in Lamb, a good prospect in Jones, a second lottery pick in the draft, and OKC gets that ballhandling help they been looking for behind Westbrook. Also, Knight could be that 6th man type of player the Thunder will need for when Martin bolts this summer. Sorry folks but if we were going to put Knight at the off gaurd spot than id rather just do this. Too many Iverson/Gordon memories. UGH!!

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