All-Around Appeal

Knight’s ability, willingness to adjust already shows results

Brandon Knight has done several things right for the Pistons his rookie year.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
The one thing that’s impressed the Pistons most about Brandon Knight? Everything.

More expansively, what’s impressed the Pistons most about their precocious rookie is that there are no holes in his game. Not that he’s a finished product or hasn’t made his share of rookie mistakes or won’t continue to make them.

But there is nothing about Knight’s game – and, more critically, about his makeup – that has anyone saying, “He’s a good player except for …” There isn’t one area that constitutes a red flag or anything that would appear to limit his capacity for realizing the potential the Pistons forecast for Knight when they made him the No. 8 pick in the 2011 lottery after one season running the offense for John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats and piloting them to the Final Four.

“Brandon’s a very, very bright guy,” Lawrence Frank said after the Pistons scored their first road win of the season Friday night, a convincing 98-81 win at Charlotte. “Once he sees an area of concern, he’s quick to make adjustments. That speaks to his intelligence and his will. Brandon wants to do right. He’s all for the team. His spirit is great.”

That’s a mouthful. But Frank is dead on across the board. Knight has impressed veteran teammates with his aptitude and his attitude. He picks things up quickly, works tirelessly and understands his place. A prodigy who’s been the most gifted at every step of his first 20 years, Knight projects no aura of entitlement, a trait uncommon among heralded young players in the AAU era.

With all of that as a foundation, Knight’s physical gifts will carry him the rest of the way as he evolves into what he will become – whatever that might be.

Though not thickly built, Knight, at 6-foot-3, is willowy with a wing span that will serve him well at both ends but especially on defense, where he is a harassing force. Though not yet piling up huge assist numbers, the floor vision Knight has shown in flashes suggests those days might not be far off. He shoots with great range, handles the ball expertly enough to get to any spot on the floor, possesses elite quickness and shows a great nose for the ball.

After he got a little 3-point crazy for a few games, Knight focused on cracking the paint in the last few and did so with aplomb. When turnovers began to dog him, he recorded an error-free 35 minutes against Charlotte. The stat that jumped off the page in that game: Knight’s 10 rebounds, underscoring the fearlessness Knight has projected from day one.

As one-sided as Friday’s win might have appeared, there was a moment in the fourth quarter when Charlotte had an opening. A 21-point lead had dwindled to 13 and the Pistons were struggling to dent a zone defense when Knight, without a hint of hesitancy, drained a deep wing triple to take it to 16. After D.J. White scored to pare it back to 14, Knight knocked down a triple from the same spot seconds later. Whatever sense of panic might have gripped a Pistons team staring at a seventh straight loss evaporated in that moment.

Even a level-headed rookie might have allowed himself a moment of self-congratulation after knocking down such pressure shots. Here’s what Knight said: “My teammates attacked the gaps of the zone, created opportunities for me and I was able to knock them down,” said Knight, beginning to get a better gauge of when to attack the basket and when to probe for shots on the perimeter. “Damien Wilkins, Rodney Stuckey – if not for them creating opportunities for me, those shots wouldn’t have gone in or I wouldn’t have been able to take them.”

So what’s not to like?