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Brandon Knight’s defense has been very, very overlooked

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

On Feb. 7, the Pistons ranked 19th in the NBA by allowing 103.5 points per 100 possessions.

Since Feb. 8, the Pistons have allowed 112.1 points per 100 possessions, a mark that ranks last in the league.

So what changed?

Anyone who watches games will say Andre Drummond. Sentimentalists who recall his four all-defensive second-team selections will say Tayshaun Prince.

And they’d both be right.

But Drummond and Prince are only part of the story. The Pistons’ most overlooked defender this season has been Brandon Knight, who has missed six games and played just four minutes in another due to injury during this "run."

The Pistons allow 8.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when Knight is on the court than when he’s off — easily the best mark on the team.

Corey Maggette is next closest, at 4.8 (skewed because he played more than 80% of his minutes with Drummond), followed by Jose Calderon, at 4.0 (less relevant, because since he joined the team, Detroit’s defense has been terrible with or without him) and then by Austin Daye, at 3.2 (no longer on the team).

The closest reasonable comparison is Greg Monroe, who checks in at 3.1. Knight just dominates this stat.

Of course, on/off numbers can be heavily influenced by lineups, both by the team and the opponent. But individually, Knight’s defense also checks out.

On the plays mySynergySports, a video scouting service, lists Knight as the primary defender, he allows 0.84 points per play, which ranks 131st in the league. Considering 460 players have played in the NBA this season and that this is a per-play rank rather than a stat in which Knight benefits from playing big minutes or often defending fellow starters, 131st is very good.

Not only is Knight defending well, he’s markedly improved from last season, when he ranked 370th. In five of the six play types as categorized by Synergy that he’s eligible for, Knight’s rank has improved:

• Isolation (295th to 97th)

• Pick-and-roll ballhandler (167th to 106th)

• Post-up (220th to 92nd)

• Spot-up (303rd to 194th)

• Handoff (42nd to 9th)

10 Comments

  • Mar 22, 201312:13 pm
    by anthony

    Reply

    Good piece, I always thought his D was underrated. Glad to see that its not just my delusional thinking. This is why BK will be just fine at the SG position if thats where he needs to play. Sure the dwyane wade’s of the league will give him fits, but who don’t they give fits to? BK definitely needs to be part of the future here in Detroit, he’s gonna be a good player that gives his all every time, which will lead to him being better than people bill him to be.

  • Mar 22, 201312:25 pm
    by Brandon Knight

    Reply

    Nice article! Lets see how he defends Wade tonight, I hope he doesn’t get into foul trouble early; we really need him. Stuckey also needs to step up!

  • Mar 22, 201312:33 pm
    by tarsier

    Reply

    Interesting. So why do you suppose his stats are pretty much identical to last season if he has improved his game in so many ways?

    • Mar 22, 20131:06 pm
      by Desolation Row

      Reply

      Are you talking about defensive stats? Haven’t dug in, but based off the stats in the article, it seems like they have improved — at least relative to the rest of the league. Not bad improvement, and I’ll take a guy who can develop into a lock-down defender and average 13-15 ppg on solid 3 pt shooting. Bodes well for his future, IMO. 

      As for offensive stats, well maybe it’s just him still getting used to the pro game as a primary ball-handler. If he was in college, he’d be a junior.  

      • Mar 22, 20131:12 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        I recognize that there aren’t a lot of stats to adequately show defensive performance. I was referring to the last bit of the article:

        • Isolation (295th to 97th)
        • Pick-and-roll ballhandler (167th to 106th)
        • Post-up (220th to 92nd)
        • Spot-up (303rd to 194th)
        • Handoff (42nd to 9th) 

  • Mar 22, 201312:57 pm
    by jerrific

    Reply

    I’m not saying Knight hasn’t improved, but Drummond’s presence probably has something to do with this. Drummond makes point guards a little less aggressive and more hesitant to drive and create just by being on the floor. Maybe Knight has improved defensively, but as tarsier mentioned his stats are pretty much identical to last season. I wonder how those stats would vary between when Drummond is on and off the floor. 

    • Mar 22, 20131:48 pm
      by Revken

      Reply

      I don’t Knight has played many minutes with Drummond, so I doubt that this applies.  It looks like the stats say he’s improved as a defender.  On offense they don’t show much improvement, but that’s a different issue.  Overall, any improvement is nice to see.  But better defense shows hard work, and that desserves some praise.

  • Mar 22, 20131:17 pm
    by Brandon Knight

    Reply

    Wowowowow Brandon Knight is out tonight!

  • Mar 22, 20134:57 pm
    by I HATE FRANK

    Reply

    I’ve said it all season…. Knight plays very good defense…just because he rack up steals or blocks mean he isn’t defending ….. People will look at guard who play passing lanes or reach a lot for steals…BUT they give up the driving lane…  

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