From what we heard last season, Rodney Stuckey was pleased to have Brandon Knight as his backcourt partner. From the opinions pro and con expressed about Knight since he began playing for us, Stuckey might also be happy that Knight is catching a lot of the flack that used to be directed at him! There’s probably no subject more controversial on this site than BK. Some people think he could be a future all-star, and others think the sooner we trade him and get a real point guard the better. There are lots of opinions between those extremes, too. Some think he’ll become at least a serviceable point guard. Others think he could carve out a good career as a Jason Terry-type scorer off the bench.
The fact is that all we have to go on for our opinions is the actual evidence of how Knight has played so far. Some people look at the stats and see an awful player. Others look at them and see a promising player. Which is he? Do the stats lie? Or are they inconclusive?
I think the one word that best describes Knight’s play so far is "inconsistent." As a rookie he had some great games and some awful games. And it’s not as if he got more consistent as the season progressed. Knight had three of his best games in April. He also had three of his worst games in April! As a way of looking at Knight’s highs and lows, I separated out his top 11 performances and his bottom 11 performances of last season. So each group equals one-sixth of his rookie year.
The top 11 includes all of his 20+ point games. His assist totals were good for most of those games, too. How well did Knight do? He averaged 22.9 points on 54.2 % shooting (56.6 % on threes!), 6.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and only 1.9 turnovers. If he’d played this well for all 66 games, Knight would have easily been selected rookie of the year.
For the bottom 11, I picked the worst of the games where he scored less than 10 points. Only once in this group of games did he exceed his assist average for the season. How bad was he? He averaged 4.5 points on 20.6 % shooting (13.9 % on threes!), 2.1 assists, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.5 turnovers. If he’d played that bad for all 66 games, he’d be on the list of all-time biggest busts.
By way of comparison, let’s look at a similar sample of games for Cleveland’s rookie point guard, Kyrie Irving. While injuries limited him to 51 games, I’ll still separate out his top 11 and bottom 11 performances. What do his stats tell us about how consistent Irving was compared to Knight?
Irving scored over 20 points in 24 games, but in the 11 I selected he scored 23+ points. How well did he do? He averaged 26.4 points on 55.2 % shooting (62.2 % on threes!), 5.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 turnovers. The assist average is right on target with his season average, but the rebound and turnover averages are higher for those 11 games.
For the bottom 11, I picked games in which Irving scored 14 or fewer points. How bad was he? He averaged 9.8 points on 31.3 % shooting (but 34.9 % on threes!), 6.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.7 turnovers. Not great numbers, but the assists to turnovers ratio is better than his season average. That indicates that for a Cleveland team that needed him to score, he focused more on facilitating when his shots weren’t falling. And it’s obvious that Irving’s worst numbers weren’t nearly as bad as Knight’s worst.
In conclusion, I think these stats samples clearly show us how inconsistent a player Brandon Knight was last season. When he was bad, he was very bad. When he was good, he was very good. It's literally like night and day. Depending on the sample size we focus on, we can either conclude that he’ll always be a lousy pro, or look forward to him becoming a future all-star.
I imagine that the eventual truth will lie somewhere betwixt those two opposite expectations. For right now, Knight has given both camps plenty of ammunition, so it’s no wonder that our discussions on this site get so heated. Hopefully, BK will perform with greater consistency in the 2012-13 season, allowing us to direct more of our critiques elsewhere!