Obviously there are many things we're all paying attention to this season. We want to see, though we don't have a say in what actually happens, what the team needs to add so that they can eventually be playoff mainstays again and eventually compete for a title again. There are a few things I keep hearing about that I wanted to look into. 1) The comparisons between Chauncey Billups and Brandon Knight. 2) How this team needs a facilitator and Calderon or Lawson would be ideal. 3) Knight does not have the skills to be a good to great PG.
As far as number 3 goes, that may be true. His college shooting hasn't seemed to translate to the NBA ranks though his 3 point shooting has seemed to do just fine even with a further distance. I would say that one can't lose their shot, but we have Daye on our team and we all know it's possible. And though he is certainly giving out more dimes this year, he's also turning it over more. So he may be an average point guard, or as some have said, a better shooting guard (though, as I've stated, his shooting isn't really that great).
I believe numbers 1 and 2 kind of go together. People compare Knight to Billups because we want a Billups like player, Billups back, or a facilitator as good as Billups was. People will generally state how Billups struggled in his first few seasons before he became the player he was for the Pistons. But, though I appreciate what Billups did for the Pistons and respect his skill, part of me questions whether how good he was was in turn because of who he had on the team.
For his career, Billups averaged 5.5 assists per game. Of the years he did not play with Detroit, he has only been at 5.4 APG or higher the last year he was with Minnesota, last year, and when he was with Denver (he had 5.3 APG in N.Y.). When he was with Detroit, his lowest APG was 3.9 and it was his first season with us. After that, it ranged between 5.7 and 8.6 APG. The same kind of visual can ALMOST be drawn about his points. Before the Pistons, his highest PPG was 13.9. His first year with Detroit, it was 16.2 and never dropped below that. His minutes also follow this pattern. Sadly, his FG% does not as much. His steals have barely ever been far away from 1 PG, ranging from 0.9 to 1.5, but that wouldn't mean anything for this article.
Now please understand, my goal of this article is not to compare Knight to Billups, but to try and determine how much of Billups was Billups, and how much of it was the team. And this isn't to slight Billups, but to try and see how this fits with Knight and our team and what we should do.
Billups was obviously a traveling man in the beginning stages of his career, and that can hurt performance. But I don't think it was as much of that as it was his teammates. Before he got to Minnesota, he didn't really have great people on his team. He had (I think) McDyess in Denver, but that was it. In Minnesota, he has Garnett, (early) Szczerbiak and even Joe Smith (LMAO). They had some good teams, but not what they had in Detroit. In Detroit, Billups has Hamilton who ran around everyone, eventually McDyess (again) and Rasheed, Ben Wallace down low to get the rebounds, Clifford Robinson, Corliss Williamson, etc. He had people that moved without the ball, pretty decent shooters, and people who could rebound the ball for extra possessions. Some of you might be saying, "Yeah, so what."
People that compare Knight and expect him to be the next Chauncey (more newcomers to the site than mainstays as the mainstays are pretty logical and levelheaded - when not drinking) need to understand that Knight doesn't have the team Chauncey had. Put Knight on those teams and their stats may look very similar (even the TO, Billups averaged 2+ for his career). Knight doesn't have a Hamilton in the starting lineup who shoots at a decent clip and don't stop moving until you get him the ball in a position where he can shoot it (oh wait, he did against Philly). He has a rebounder in Monroe, and would have another in Andre should he start eventually, so that's kind of a wash. But he certainly doesn't have many great shooters.
When you have great shooters a few things happen. First of all, your assists go up. Last year the Pistons shot a combined 43.8%. Most of the Detroit teams Billups played with shot better than that (the lowest was 43% his first year, 45.8% was the highest). I wish I had a breakdown of whether the first or second unit shot better, but that may not show much. But so far this year, we're shooting a dismal 42.5%...and yet somehow Knight has 6.6 APG. But imagine if we were shooting a higher percentage? That could be a much higher number.
Another thing that happens when you have great shooters is that your team gets back on defense which then, if executed properly, provides transition offense, which leads to easier buckets, alas, more assists. Also, having great shooters allows you, as a point guard, to get open for shots more. When you have more open shots, you tend to shoot better (or take more shots). Billups did shoot a little better when he came to Detroit, but he also shot a hell of a lot more. More shots, marginal improvement on shooting, more points.
So this kind of comes down to the chicken or the egg. Did the team play better because of Billups or did Billups play better because of the team? If the case is that Billups made the team play better, then my point is moot and this is the waste of an article. But because I wrote the article, you know that I believe it was the other way around. Look at who he's had on his teams since he came to Detroit. I've already mentioned who he played with in Detroit, but in Denver he had Melo and other up and coming stars, in N.Y. he had Melo, Amare and others, and in L.A. he has Paul, Griffin and D. Jordan. Again, I respect Billups and am grateful for what he did for our city/team, but I don't put as much stock into Billups as others do.
Now, this is not to say that I put that much stock into Knight, because I don't. But for those that try to draw the comparisons and use it to determine what we need, I think we need to think about how Billups became Billups. If he was a product of the system, as some PG are, then Knight is doing a lot better than he should be (because we have some shitty players on our team). So what do we do with our team? What do we need more: a facilitator or players who can be facilitated? This is another reason why I wish there were more advanced stats such as missed assists. If Knight is facilitating and people are simply missing their shots, then maybe we don't need a facilitator but better shooters. Maybe we need someone like Hamilton who has the energy and stamina to run around the floor all night long and get open for shots (oh wait, we have one of those, his name is Kyle Singler). Maybe we need, with the exception of the game against Philly, better rebounders (oh wait, we do, but we don't start Andre Drummond).
In conclusion, I think we can agree on a few things. While Knight's play has been ugly and his shot isn't really falling (though getting better), Knight has shown the propensity to do point guardy things this year. Yes his turnovers are up, but his assists have gone up at a higher percentage (averaging better than 2.0 A/TO as compared to less than 1.5 last year). No, he doesn't steal that much, but he's never been much of a thief (still hope it can be learned). With the cap we'll have this year, the Pistons have to decide what to do with it. We know Prince should be coming off the bench, maybe Stuckey as well, and that could really change things. If we had a starting lineup of Knight, English, Singler, Monroe and Drummond, we have youth starting the game off with energy and efficiency. Then if we have Stuckey, Middleton, Prince, Jerebko and Maxiell coming off the bench, we have veteran leadership and steadiness continuing in the second unit against average second unit players. But if this works, I don't think we need to go shopping for a PG as much as some might think. I actually think if that lineup were to work, we'd really only have to replace Prince, Maxiell, Daye and Villanueva. (HEY FRANK AND JOE, ARE YOU READING THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!)