Which Point Guard Is The Better Choice At Five?
Video: Jim Kelly: Part 1 | Part 2 | Brandon Knight | Kemba Walker | Jacob Pullen | Isaiah Thomas
Discuss It On: Twitter | Facebook | RaptorSpace
Making A Case For... Brandon Knight
Read Making a Case For ... Kemba Walker
Jay Satur - raptors.com
Brandon Knight headlined the second workout session in Toronto on Tuesday and while he may be long gone by the time the Raptors pick fifth on draft night, he wasn't leaving anything to chance with a potential suitor.
"With those projections, you never know what may happen," said Knight. "A team may not necessarily like you that much or you never know what may go wrong so I just wanted to come here just in case I did fall to that position and make sure Toronto is comfortable with picking me, make sure I worked out for them, make sure I didn't leave any doubts in their minds.
"So that's why I came to Toronto and it's a great place. I wouldn't mind being here. Lovely city. Lovely fans."
Believe me Brandon, the feeling seems to be more than mutual. In fact, watch Jim Kelly's post-workout scrum and convince me the 18-year-old University of Kentucky product isn't near the top of the Raptors' draft board.
In this blogger's humble opinion, it's for good reason.
The word most traditionally associated with Walker seems to be "winner", but it's not like it's an entirely foreign concept to Knight. As he began to steadily improve later into his freshman season, the Wildcats followed suit. The team ranked 22nd nationally by mid-February went on to fight its way to the Final Four -- ultimately falling to Walker's Huskies in the semis.
Then there's the John Calipari factor. Between the University of Memphis and the University of Kentucky, Calipari has worked with former Raptor Rod Strickland to help Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall transition very well to the pros the last three seasons. Knight definitely seems to have the necessary tools to make it four straight point guard success stories from coach Cal, beginning with his frame.
He weighed in as the second-lightest player at the recent NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, but his length and athleticism have the Raptors' brass believing he can help them defend more effectively -- which continues to be a major problem area.
"He has all the tools to become a good defender and I know at Kentucky that's one of their strong points, preaching on-the-ball defence and that's one of the reasons we have great interest," said Jim Kelly following Tuesday's second workout.
That's one Raptors weakness covered, Knight just might address another in the form of the Raptors' precipitous decline in 3-point shooting this past season.
"I thought early on in his Kentucky career, he had a little problem with that," Kelly said. "But as he got later in the season, especially in the SEC and NCAA tournament, his range, his percentage increased. He didn't have a very good game at the finish against UConn, but his other games I really think his three-point shooting came on at the end of the year."
Let's face it, this is a draft with questions marks surrounding nearly every prospect projected to go in the lottery. For Walker, it's the unfortunate factor of height, which certainly doesn't doom him as a pro but isn't likely to change at the age of 21.
Knight's mystery lies more in his potential and in a draft that Kelly today described as "a deep class, maybe not as much impact," doesn't it make sense to take the player from a great program who's ceiling might turn out to be pretty high as he continues to adapt to the point guard position?
"I'm definitely young and still learning," Knight said about playing point. "It's going to take a while to master it and get comfortable with it. But it's an ongoing process that I feel I'm getting better at."
That statement could be the Raptors unofficial motto for last season and the foreseeable future. It's not hard to envision Knight growing into a leader of that group if (and it currently looks like a big one), he's on the board at five come draft night.
More from the afternoon workout
Isaiah Thomas, Washington, guard: An interesting contrast in the interviews of the business-like Knight and University of Washington standout Isaiah Thomas, who was the other guard in attendance for the workout session. The undersized Thomas definitely seems to compete with a chip on his shoulder and brought an equally loose approach to an impressive post-workout interview.
“All my life I’ve been doubted,” said Thomas of achieving success in the NBA. “Like I said, it’s not the first time I’ve played someone bigger than me and I feel like I can use my size as an advantage. When I see guards like JJ Barea (of the Mavs) , it’s helping me out tremendously and he’s just proving people wrong as he goes and I’m doing the same thing.”
Alex Stephenson, USC, forward: Stephenson reportedly put his strength and physicality on display, but may look better in more competitive situations. "I don't know if you can get the most out of this type of workout with him, he's a bit more of a five-on-five player," said Kelly.
Frank Hassell, Old Dominion, forward: Kelly didn't want to compare either Knight or Walker to any current or former pro, but Hassell elicited an eye-opener. "...he's probably a little bit in between -- probably a 4/5 -- looks a little like Z-Bo (Zach Randolph) there, of Memphis. Doesn't quite have the shooting game of him yet, but he's a pretty talented player."