For the better part of the last decade, the Pistons had one of the more underrated point guards in the league with Chauncey Billups. The 2004 Finals MVP was able to penetrate the lane, shoot from beyond the three-point arc and most importantly, set up his teammates. After the Pistons traded him to Denver in 2008, they understandably found themselves with no real leader on the floor. Other factors likely accelerated the team’s decline, but the lack of a real point guard has to be near the top of that list. Fortunately for Joe Dumars and company, though, Brandon Knight fell to them in the 2011 draft and he has taken hold of the position.
The former Kentucky Wildcat firmly established himself as the team’s future point guard just six games into the 2011 season, moving Rodney Stuckey to his more natural shooting guard spot. For a first year guard, especially one who had just one year of college and no real rookie training camp, he has shown a great deal of leadership in his short time as a Piston. His numbers last season (12.8 points, 3.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds) were good enough for a NBA All-Rookie First Team nod, and his potential can only grow after a full summer of official workouts with his teammates. His shooting numbers (41.5% overall and 38% from three-point range) aren’t quite what most fans would like to see, but for a first-year guard, they are pretty respectable. As a true point guard, however, Knight must do better than last season. He averaged 2.6 turnovers to his 3.8 assists, for an assist-to-turnover ratio of just 1.47; if the team hopes to continue improving, they’ll need the 20-year old to let plays develop rather than force the issue. He’ll need to continue improving these aspects of his game in the next few years, but again, actual training with teammates should help that.
Ever since his breakout 2009-2010 campaign, in which he averaged 10 points, 4.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds in 26.5 minutes, Bynum’s numbers have taken a dramatic downtown. He averaged just 5.7 points and 1.8 assists in 14.3 minutes last season and had the lowest assist-to-turnover ratio (1.22) of his five-year career. He clearly has talent, as he set the Pistons’ club record for points in a quarter by an individual player (26) in 2009 and became the first Piston in 25 years to record 20 assists in one game in 2010. Regardless of those accomplishments, he seemed to fall out of favor with head coach Lawrence Frank last season, resulting in his lowest totals with the Pistons. For him to come back stronger in 2012, he’ll need to show that he can be more of a facilitating guard, rather than a player who will force shots. He will have a place on this team if he can do that. Doing this every once in a while can’t hurt either…