Whatever It Takes

Joe D sees Knight taking steady steps in evolution as Pistons point guard

Joe D counts on Brandon Knight to play to his strengths while evolving as a point guard.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
(Editor’s note: Fourth in a series of stories with Joe Dumars and his perspective on the Pistons.)

Joe Dumars had just one overarching objective for Brandon Knight’s second season: to take the next steps toward becoming the engine that drives the Pistons as their point guard.

“He seems more and more comfortable at the position,” the Pistons president of basketball operations said. “He’s starting to see a lot more things and he’s taking the steps he needs to take. It’s been encouraging to watch him grow into his role and that’s all you’re really looking for from that position. You have to know when to attack, know when to give it up, know when to just control your team. He’s still a young guy. He’s probably played about 90 games now. He’s still learning, but I like the direction that he’s headed in.”

Knight’s assists per game are up from 3.8 as a rookie to 4.9 this season. In the off-season, Knight said he was comfortable that his teammates respected him for his work ethic and would be ready for him to assume a leadership role. He added that he was going to make sure they also knew he was an unselfish player and spent the preseason seemingly passing up scoring chances to prove the point.

Dumars saw that and understood it, but says that for the Pistons to take the next step as a team it’s important that Knight play to his talents.

“Every team’s point guard has to do what they do best to help their team win,” he said. “If it means Brandon Knight has to score points for us to help us win, then that’s what he should do. When you put the ball into someone’s hands, they have to do what they do best to help your team win, not to fulfill some idea of what someone has for the position. Whatever it takes to put your team in position to win, that’s what you have to do.

“For us, a lot of nights we need Brandon to score. There are going to be some nights we don’t need him to score as much and that’s what I’m talking about – mastering the position. I think he’s starting to figure out nights where we need him to be more aggressive, nights where we need him to get other people involved. That’s where you trust a kid like Brandon Knight is going to figure it out – and we do trust that this kid will get it.”

Knight put in his typically long hours over the off-season to make strides across the board, but he particularly focused on ballhandling, mastering the various passes required while operating out of pick-and-roll situations and improving his strength.

He’s been a more effective finisher in traffic this season, a testament to the dozen or so pounds of good weight he’s added, and his ballhandling enables him to exploit minute openings even as he sometimes pushes the boundaries.

The constant with Knight has remained his 3-point shooting, where he ranks as one of the best young snipers in the NBA. After shooting an outstanding 38 percent from the arc as a rookie, Knight has upped his accuracy to 43.5 percent this season while taking roughly another half an attempt per game.

One other trait the Pistons know won’t ever abandon Knight: his work ethic. It’s why Joe D is confident that Knight will continue to rapidly evolve as a point guard.

“Brandon is a Type A personality in his approach to the game,” he said. “We love that he’s the ultimate competitor. He puts in work on his game like no other. He’s a really smart, bright kid and he wants to do the right things. Those are the type of young guys you want to entrust your organization with. We trust that Brandon Knight will figure out whatever it takes to help us be successful.”