Brandon Knight’s uphill climb as a top scoring guard

Brandon Knight still leads the Pistons in assists per game – 4.4 to Jose Calderon’s 3.0.

And Calderon leads the Pistons’ guards in points per game – 15.0 to Knight’s 13.8.

But I suspect both those leaders will flip in the near future as Calderon plays more as point guard and Knight plays more at shooting guard.

We already have a pretty good idea what Calderon, in his eighth NBA season, can do as a point guard.  But what about Knight at shooting guard? He hasn’t played that role next to someone like Calderon before, so it’s a bit of a mystery. Before Knight gets too far along in the process, I want to set a baseline for his ability as a scoring guard.

In looking for a sample of players similar to the role Knight will likely have going forward, I set two guidelines:

  • They lead their team’s backcourt players in points per game.
  • They do not lead their team in assists per game.

There are 15 such players plus Knight. I’m measuring their scoring by both volume (points per 36 minutes) and efficiency (true shooting percentage).

Sheet 1

No player in the sample both averages fewer points per 36 minutes and has a lower true shooting percentage than Knight.

I won’t get deeply into Knight’s problems as a distributing guard other than to offer a quick summary: turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Taking the ball out of Knight’s hands won’t make him a better passer and ball-handler, but it will limit the number of Pistons’ possessions that end with a turnover.

But I also worry Knight lacks the skills to be a quality scoring guard right now. Of course, he’s still young and developing, but I’m not focused on that aspect at the moment.

The biggest difference for Knight the rest of this season will be playing next to Calderon. Knight will get the ball in different spots and will have different plays run for him.

Will this change Knight’s production? Maybe. Maybe not.

Knight has not played like a quality scoring guard so far this season, but the Pistons have also asked him to be more of a playmaker. Without that burden, perhaps his scoring will improve, but I’m not optimistic.

I think Knight’s skillset – the one that produced his current numbers – weighs more heavily than his role change, but we’ll get a much better idea soon enough.

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