In its entirety, Brandon Knight‘s game against the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night was a blast. But that didn’t stop anyone from cursing his name before the game even ended. Knight continues to be great at thrilling fans and turning those same fans against him minutes later. He isn’t frustrating in the way Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis once were, probably because there’s hope he can still improve. Also Knight doesn’t shoot 40%, have the body language of a rotten head of lettuce and take one miserable shot after the next while we all sit there and feel our souls exit our bodies.
Thanks for not being Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Brandon Knight. Back to Wednesday though.
Knight really did look good for a lot of Wednesday night’s game. More than good. He was in control, which we could only say so often last season. He only made five shots and only one of those was a contested layup, but he drew five fouls and shot 10 free throws after time and again getting into the paint against the Hornets by using his exceptional combination of quick burst and strength. When he wasn’t able to draw a foul, he did a good job for most of the game of turning his drives into the paint that didn’t result in anything for him into opportunities for his teammates. He finished the game with 13 assists and at least six or seven of those assists came out of his drive and kick to an open shooter or drop the ball to someone at the rim game.
Knight was Milwaukee’s leading rebounder too. He grabbed eight boards and on about half of those rebounds he took off in the other direction after gathering the ball, leaned his shoulders down a bit (improved aerodynamics) and sprinted up the court, looking for easy opportunities for himself or his teammates. Sometimes he found them, like when he saw Giannis Antetokounmpo streaking next to him for a layup or when he pulled back and hit a trailing Jared Dudley for a three. Knight the rebounder was an instrumental apparent of Milwaukee’s OH MY GOD WE GOT A STOP NOW LET’S GET TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COURT IMMEDIATELY approach when things were going well.
Those previous two paragraphs? That was Knight nearly at his best. He was only 5-17 on the night from the field, so it wasn’t like he was tossing a perfect game heading into the fourth quarter or anything, but he was putting on a hell of a show.
Then the show went off the rails, like a show that had overstayed its welcome or lost key members of the cast or writing staff or something. Over the last four minutes of regulation, suddenly Knight wasn’t driving to pass or really looking for other options. As the Hornets went on a run and forced the Bucks to inbound the ball and create offense out of the halfcourt rather than transition, Milwaukee’s offense stalled. Knight worked out of pick and rolls with Larry Sanders and rarely found success. The one late-game instance when Knight didn’t work out of a pick and roll, with two minutes to play, he attacked an opening and lofted up a layup that Al Jefferson easily blocked. It was the living definition of forcing the action.
In Wednesday’s game, Knight passed the ball 70 times in 39 minutes. But in the final four minutes of regulation, Knight passed the ball just four times (this line was edited: He had 96 touches and 70 passes). There seems to be an emphasis on isolation and creation from a point guard as the clock is winding down and the game is tight, but even with that being the case, it was tough to watch Knight try to will this team to a win seemingly by himself.
Tough as that was to watch, Knight still seems like an appropriate point guard for this Bucks team to have. He also seems like the unquestioned point guard of the team. For all the talk about Giannis Antetopointguard, the athletic wing stayed an athletic wing for virtually the entire game. When Knight was on the court, he was the one bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense, for better or worse.
If there really will be a continued commitment to pushing the ball up the court, then that commitment fits well into Knight’s strength as a transition conductor. Everyone knew the Bucks were going to be a team that struggled in the half court, but Knight and company looked great early on when they could get stops and grab long rebounds. The half court thing? That’ll be a work in progress all season. Since those struggles late were so prominently on display Wednesday, Knight and Jason Kidd will have film to break down immediately. They’ll surely talk about where he was successful and where he struggled, what he could do better next time.
With Kidd at the helm and a group of assistants focused on development, there’s a chance Knight could make strides running an offense this season he didn’t make last season. Most people seem ready to chalk up last season as something of a waste, almost a year that didn’t happen. Perhaps the disconnect that seemed to exist between the staff and roster cost Knight an opportunity to get better where he most needed to get better. Most indications, as you would expect so early in the season, are that this new group is a big happy family. Combine that vibe with one of the all-time greatest point guards making the Bucks’ nightly decisions and we seem to have an atmosphere in which Knight could improve.
And if he doesn’t improve? If Knight is still struggling to create points for himself or others late in games when it’s half court or bust? Then Milwaukee knows where he stands heading into his restricted free agency.
Either way, for now, enjoy the NBA’s leader in assists and assists per game after one night: Brandon Knight. If Wednesday night was any indication, it will be a lot more fun this season than it was last season figuring out just how well he shapes up as a point guard.