Are Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton the next Carlos Delfino/Arron Afflalo/Amir Johnson? I doubt it … but I can’t ignore the fact that they’ve played pretty well this month for the Bucks. In today’s Detroit Free Press column, I looked at what the Pistons gave up in the Brandon Jennings trade and, specifically, the need for the team to get much, much better at developing the young players not named Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond that it drafts:
In fact, Knight is actually a perfect highlight of the confused way the organization has attempted to develop talent over the years. Knight, a player who was very raw and erratic and clearly had a lot to learnabout the point guard position in the NBA, was given heavy minutes from the start, while Drummond, a player who was insanely productive from the second he stepped onto the court, had to spend most of last season fighting for scrap minutes behind Jason Maxiell.
The point of all this isn’t to lament what a dream world roster devoid of player evaluation mistakes could have looked like. It’s also not to suggest Knight and Middleton are the next Afflalo/Delfino/Johnson in terms of having productive careers in other places. They clearly still have a lot to prove as NBA players. Those players aren’t coming back, so there’s no point in critiquing things that happened years ago.
The Pistons are going to make the playoffs, and that’s worth celebrating after four years of watching arguably the least interesting basketball team in the NBA. But the reality of the new NBA is that teams are not going to remain competitive if they can’t fill out their rotation with productive and affordable talent, which usually comes in the form of young players on rookie deals. The fact that the Pistons will achieve a goal and likely bring playoff basketball back to Michigan this summer is great. But if they’re going to sustain that success, their track record when it comes to developing their own talent has to get dramatically better.