Brandon Knight is not a finished product.
He knows how to score, but he isn't terribly efficient. He has good length, but he's also rail thin. He can find the open man, but that man isn't always his teammate. There's no denying it: Brandon Knight has flaws.
Fortunately, he knows this. And at 19 years old, he has time to polish his game. Following his introductory press conference on Saturday, I asked Knight about the "combo guard" label he's already been dealt, and whether there are aspects of his game that he needs to improve.
"Definitely, there's a lot that I need to work on," Knight said. "I'm still a very young player with a lot to learn. I can get better going left, better in pick and rolls, and better in decision making. Those are things that I'm going to have to get better at."
That said, Knight bristles at the notion that he can't run an offense. "I really do think people kind of undervalue my ability to run a team," he said, "even though I was able to the entire year and I proved that. But still some people are saying I can't run a team. But that's fine, it's something that I'll continue to show I can do."
'We had to do a lot of grinding'
In particular, Knight stated during the press conference that his game is suited for playing in half-court sets, given that Kentucky's playing style often mirrored Detroit's traditional grind-it-out pace.
"First off, I can shoot the basketball really well. That's something that I take pride in -- in being able to make shots, hit open shots," he said. "And that's something that we did at Kentucky -- we only had six players, so therefore we had to do a lot of grinding. We couldn't run for 40 minutes, we had to play a half-court setting because we didn't have the manpower to run up and down the court the entire game, so that's something that we got better as a team and I got better as an individual this year."
As for Knight's wiry frame -- he stands 6-foot-3 in shoes but at 177 pounds was the second-lightest prospect (behind Norris Cole) at the NBA's pre-draft combine in May -- he expects to gain mass without problem, eventually settling at 188 to 190 pounds.
"In high school, that wasn't a problem because I was around 188," he said. "I know what it takes to get heavier the right way, by adding muscle and stuff like that, so that won't be a problem."
Dumars: 'You have to live with some mistakes'
Joe Dumars knows that Knight isn't perfect, but he's willing to put the ball in the young point guard's hands and live with the consequences.
"It's not about years or anything like that," said Dumars. "It's just about trusting that this kid is going to get better. You draft a kid like this, the way they get better is you allow them to make mistakes. You're not going to put them out there and put them in a position that they have to be perfect, or else. You have to live with some mistakes with a young player.
"If you recall, Greg Monroe last year, the first month or so of the season, he had to go through his growing pains, but you stay with them and you see the reward as the season goes on, you see the learning curve. You can't get that learning curve just by talking about it, you have to get out there and actually experience it."
Odds and ends
• As you can tell by the picture, Knight will wear No. 7 this year: "Basically, my family voted on it, because I told them it's zero or seven. And we just ended up choosing seven. Seven's a divine number, and I thought it was a good choice."
The number may have additional meaning -- in another interview with WXYZ's Tom Leyden, Knight apparently added that he picked No. 7 since seven teams passed on him. I dig the chip on his shoulder.
What about Ben Gordon? If you recall, Gordon filed a request to wear No. 8 before training camp last year, but the request came too late and was denied. (Keith Langlois mentioned this last February at the bottom of this mailbag.) So Gordon will wear No. 8 on his jersey this year. As for what team's jersey that is, we'll have to wait and see ...
• Knight explaining his low-key demeanor caught on camera after being selected by the Pistons: "I'm definitely happy to be here in Detroit. It's a great feeling to be picked by Detroit, it's a great city with great tradition. I think I reacted that way because I'm a serious guy. That's always been my nature -- always be calm and collect. And like I said, [Detroit] has a great tradition here, three championships and I'm hoping that we can add to that."
• Knight explaining whether he's more proud of his scoring average or GPA: "Probably my grade point average, just because a lot of people aren't able to do that and a lot of people don't take that seriously. I think a lot more people strive for the 18 points a game versus the 4.3. So the 4.3 I think is a little more different, and I'm a lot more happy to achieve that."
• Knight, on considering an Ivy League school instead of Kentucky. "I visited Yale. I went unofficially to Yale, and I obviously got letters from Harvard and other places like that. I ended up making my decision to go to Kentucky."
• Knight explaining the origin of his strong work ethic: "I feel more so just from my parents. Whenever I would do something when I was younger and I'd do it half way, they would pull me to the side and just tell me, 'If you don't step it up and do it 110 percent, I'm not going to allow you to do it all.'
"So it started from an early age just having that mindset and it kind of just stuck with me. If I got on the court or in the classroom and didn't give 110 percent or didn't do it the right way, I didn't feel like it was going the right way or like I was doing like I was supposed to be doing."
• Knight explaining John Calipari's methods to coaching great point guards: "He just expects excellence and perfection. You can have a great game going and he's going to rip you for one mistake. He pushes you to be perfect and I think that's why coach is who he is. He expects nothing but excellence."