In fear of opening a big ol' bucket of worms, I'd like to start by making one thing (even more) clear: Brandon Knight was not good his rookie season.
Yes, he's supposedly 4.0 smart, a hard worker (look at those muscles!) and a nice guy (that yawned when he was drafted by the Pistons), but he had an overall poor rookie season and that is impossible to refute.
That said, I think it's fair to look deeper into why he had some forgettable numbers and argue that his future isn't already written in gravestone. The best predictive measure is undeniably past performance, but that's not 100-percent accurate, especially when dealing with a 20-year-old who appears to have a world of raw talent and plus intangibles. No, we don't know how much weight to assign to the aforementioned immeasurable variables -- X, Y and Z -- so it's usually futile to even consider them, but they exist and can have an effect on the answer, which is at this time undefined.
When studying Brandon Knight and tabulating reasons for why he may have struggled in 2011-2012, one could argue many reasons, including but not limited to: size, inexperience, the lockout, the Pistons' scheme and/or that he simply sucks and will always suck, which happens to be the popular opinion.
While I think experience and the lockout may have had their affects, I strongly believe the majority of Knight's struggles in terms of producing point guard numbers was a result of the Pistons running an offense not conducive to a true point guard. I've made this argument ad nauseam in the comments and I've been taken to task for it. In the end, I'd like to think I've come to an amicable agreement with others in disagreeing as far as hope goes for Knight the point guard. I don't try to pretend that my approach, which in this case relies heavily on system changes and the player making adjustments, yields a better success rate than a strictly-stats-based one, but I've been right before when considering similar circumstances in addition to the numbers.
Ultimately, our opinions on how the future will play out are like investments, one way or the other, and we have to wait to see who will be right or wrong. Sure, some investments are safer than others, but I'm okay that mine is on the riskier side in this particular basketball, non-monetary case.
Having re-hashed all that, I would now like to look at Knight's four-game performance in the Summer League and try to answer the simple question I've presented in the headline, which in the grand scheme of things, probably means Rhino excrements.
Of course it'd be silly to put much weight on Summer League, but there were basketball games played and when that happens I think it's okay to talk about what we saw, however meaningful that might be. In the four games Knight played, I happened to see some encouraging signs.
For once, I thought it was clear that Knight was responsible for running the offense every time down the floor. That was not the case in his rookie season. Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince held some of those responsibilities, for whatever reasons, and they're also the kind of players that relied heavily on isolations. Thus, despite the Pistons labeling Knight their point guard and Knight calling himself a point guard, Knight was not fully immersed in a position to do point guard things, which entails running a fluid offense and, ultimately, racking up assists.
This past week, Knight brought the ball up the court every time he was in the game and, sans the first half of Game 3 in which Knight turned it over five times and shot a stupid 11 times, he appeared to be making a valiant effort to look for others' shots before his own and was instrumental in the Pistons' three wins.
For the week, Knight averaged a solid 7.3 assists, but also turned the ball over four times per game. The turnovers aren't good, I know, but if you don't consider the aberration of that third game, he would have finished with 26 assists and 11 turnovers (on just over 10 shots per game). That's much better, and acceptable. I'd also like to point out that in the second half of the game I'm taking the liberty to call an aberration he was much better, too, recording three assists opposite zero turnovers.
Obviously, in all, it's only three and a half good summer league games, but it's three and a half good games of Knight running the offense like we've rarely seen before. I think if he's given (or grasps) that opportunity in the regular season with better shooters and an entire roster of players who all know the offense, it's not unthinkable that he could improve upon his summer league numbers.
While I'm of the thought that Knight showed the tiniest bit of promise, others are reasonably unwavering because, well, I've already admitted, it's just four stupid summer league games. But at least one person actually came away thinking less of Knight. That person is Jonathan Givony of Draft Express:
Brandon. Knight's stock went down for me after seeing him 3 times this week. Wild. Unwilling passer. Average finisher. Poor body language— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) July 12, 2012
I agree that Knight is wild at times and an average finisher (although he got to the line 31 times in 4 games), but I thought he was more willing than ever to give up the rock. (And body language means as much as Knight's GPA.) In a later tweet, Givony said Knight over-dribbled and that anyone can rack up assists when dribbling for "20 seconds every possession 60 times in a game," clear hyperbole to help sell his point.
Over-dribbling? More like quibbling. Right? Right?
I can't believe I'm actually going to type this, but point guards dribble more than anybody else on the floor and some of the best ones dribble around a lot. There's also something that needs to be said about a guard who puts a shooter in a position to hit a shot, even if it takes a little longer to find that guy. I didn't see Knight's dribbling to be of any cause for concern, especially since it ultimately led to an acceptable numbers of assists while the majority of his too-many-turnovers (in summer league and last season) were bad passes, not the result of any "over-dribbling."
Frankly, I was just pleased to see the ball in Knight's hands more, allowing him to orchestrate things. I've long tried to shed some light on why Knight may have posted shitty numbers last season while also providing some fair reasons for hope in what others view a hopeless place (what's up Rihanna) and part of that was him getting free rein with the ball. He finally got that opportunity in Summer League, showed however eensy-weensy promise in running an offense, and now someone wants to complain that he's dribbling too much? It sounds counterintuitive.
I know three and a half games is nothing to build an argument on, but after seeing Knight have the keys to the Pistons' offense this past week, I feel a little better about my hope for Knight than I did before Summer League. Others' opinions will remain unchanged and that's perfectly acceptable, but I'm not buying that his stock dropped any. [Insert jokes about how his stock can't drop any lower ... heyo!]
That's just my opinion, though. Dare I say, what say you?