Brandon Knight’s defense has been very, very overlooked

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

On Feb. 7, the Pistons ranked 19th in the NBA by allowing 103.5 points per 100 possessions.

Since Feb. 8, the Pistons have allowed 112.1 points per 100 possessions, a mark that ranks last in the league.

So what changed?

Anyone who watches games will say Andre Drummond. Sentimentalists who recall his four all-defensive second-team selections will say Tayshaun Prince.

And they’d both be right.

But Drummond and Prince are only part of the story. The Pistons’ most overlooked defender this season has been Brandon Knight, who has missed six games and played just four minutes in another due to injury during this "run."

The Pistons allow 8.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when Knight is on the court than when he’s off — easily the best mark on the team.

Corey Maggette is next closest, at 4.8 (skewed because he played more than 80% of his minutes with Drummond), followed by Jose Calderon, at 4.0 (less relevant, because since he joined the team, Detroit’s defense has been terrible with or without him) and then by Austin Daye, at 3.2 (no longer on the team).

The closest reasonable comparison is Greg Monroe, who checks in at 3.1. Knight just dominates this stat.

Of course, on/off numbers can be heavily influenced by lineups, both by the team and the opponent. But individually, Knight’s defense also checks out.

On the plays mySynergySports, a video scouting service, lists Knight as the primary defender, he allows 0.84 points per play, which ranks 131st in the league. Considering 460 players have played in the NBA this season and that this is a per-play rank rather than a stat in which Knight benefits from playing big minutes or often defending fellow starters, 131st is very good.

Not only is Knight defending well, he’s markedly improved from last season, when he ranked 370th. In five of the six play types as categorized by Synergy that he’s eligible for, Knight’s rank has improved:

• Isolation (295th to 97th)

• Pick-and-roll ballhandler (167th to 106th)

• Post-up (220th to 92nd)

• Spot-up (303rd to 194th)

• Handoff (42nd to 9th)

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Tags: Andre Drummond Brandon Knight Lawrence Frank Tayshaun Prince

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