Joe D: Knight a Quick Study

Pistons learning fast: Rookie point guard a fast learner

Editor’s note: Pistons president Joe Dumars discussed a variety of topics this week with editor Keith Langlois, including the early impressions of 2011 No. 1 pick Brandon Knight. We’ll have more of Joe D’s thoughts throughout the week.

As strongly as the Pistons felt about Greg Monroe when they drafted him in June 2010, they learned things about him during the course of his rookie season that cast him in a new light. They discovered that for all of his basketball skills, and in counterpoint to his on-court stoicism, Monroe’s competitive fire burned brighter than they ever knew. They learned that, at his core, Greg Monroe wanted to be become – and to be remembered – as a great basketball player.

They’re learning about Brandon Knight now.

“What I’ve found out is this,” Joe Dumars said earlier this week. “You pull him aside and talk to him about a weakness, something you have to improve on, you can best believe that the next time you see him on the court, he’s either working on it or you can see he’s trying to improve on it.

“That’s the true mark right there. When you talk to a young guy and say here’s a shortcoming you have, here’s a hole in your game, and you see him put hours and hours into it and see him start to improve on it right away, then you know this kid’s got something in him to be great. Because that’s all greatness is – continuing to get better and better and better and never being satisfied. Greg and Brandon both have that.”

No matter how sophisticated the scouting of college players has become, no matter how many resources an NBA front office can throw at the vetting process leading to draft day, there are certain things you can never know until you get a player under your control and see him live his craft on a daily basis.

“At the end of the day, that guy has to decide, every day he wakes up, that he wants to be great,” Dumars said. “I don’t think you can find that in any kind of testing or metrics or stat or anything else. He has to have it in him and those two guys have it in them.”

It’s not lost on Dumars that Knight just turned 20 the week before camp opened and is barely a year removed from high school, nor that he’s had the greatest burden a rookie could have thrust upon him – starting at point guard.

“I sit there and watch him play and sometimes I wish I could just stop the action and say, ‘Brandon, right now, this is what you should do,’ ” Dumars said. “But he’s young and he’s going to get it and you know he’s going to get it and that’s what you feel good about it. This kid is going to put the work in and he’s going to put the time in. He still has a long way to go. He still has a lot to learn. But we like what we see so far.

“Point guard is a hard position to master. It is the toughest position to master in pro basketball. So much is going on. So much is thrown at you. He spent eight months in college – he wasn’t even there a year – you’re just removed form high school and all of a sudden you’re here playing in the NBA and you’re playing point guard. So for him to show signs of getting better and better and better already is pretty impressive.”

One of the most hopeful things about Knight’s future is that there aren’t any big holes in his arsenal. While he needs to polish almost everything, there is nothing about his game – from the offensive to the defensive end – that constitutes a roadblock to stardom.

“He has to get better at all of that,” Dumars said. “He has to continue to master that. You come in and you’re good at that stuff, but as you get older, you master it. It becomes second nature to you. The flow of the game, when to pick it up, when to pull back, who’s hot. Just the feel of the game at that position. It’s like the quarterback in the NFL. You see young quarterbacks and as they get older, they pick defenses apart because they just know it and that’s what a point guard eventually has to do. That can only come with time.”

If the Pistons have learned anything about Brandon Knight so far, it’s that he’s willing to invest however much time it takes – and that he usually beats the timetable.