Rookie Brandon Knight attempts 13 threes

by Andrew Kennedy

The Detroit Pistons lost at home to the New York Knicks 103-80 last night. Brandon Knight started for the Pistons for the second time in a row. Knight also attempted 13 three-pointers in the game. That’s a lot.

To be fair, one was a half court attempt at the end of the first half. But still, 13 threes thrown up by a rookie in just his eighth game and by someone shooting only around 30 percent from deep is interesting.

I’ve known about Knight since he was a freshman in high school. I saw him make it to States four straight years in high school and followed his successful run to the Final Four with Kentucky during his one and only season in college. I know he’s a great student, a great kid, has great work ethic, and that there’s no way he won’t succeed in the NBA.

Usually when you see a rookie shoot 13 threes, it might be seen as a red flag. Stephen Curry never shot 13 threes as a rookie and Kobe Bryant during the 2006 season (when he seemed to shoot more than anyone ever) only did five times including going 7-for-13 in the game he scored 81.

Knight’s not a red flag. He’s a well thought-out player playing on a terrible team in his first season in the league. He’s surrounded by a bunch of bums and he isn’t one. He took every shot because it was the right one and he’s not afraid.

Let’s go through each one:

1st quarter, 6:50, spot-up jumper

Knight brings the ball up court. The play is for Ben Gordon coming off a double screen on the left side of the floor. As Knight gets it to Gordon, his man Iman Shumpert helps very strongly toward Gordon. Gordon is basically doubled on the catch and Knight flattens away toward the right wing creating space. Gordon immediately passes back to Knight who is wide open for the three. Miss.

1st quarter, 4:37, hand off jumper

Knight plays a two-man game with Greg Monroe on the right side of the floor. Knight comes off the first Monroe pick baseline and is doubled so kicks it back out to Monroe who is popping. The Pistons have poor spacing so Knight comes back for the ball and receives a handoff from Monroe. Monroe shields Knight’s man upon getting it back to him and Knight fires a three with 12 seconds left on the shot clock. Miss. Poor spacing from the Pistons and no one moving on the other side of the court. Knight reads this and decides he is the only one who cares about making a shot this possession.

1st quarter, 3:43, spot-up jumper

Knight is spotting up on the weak side as Tayshaun Prince handles the ball in the pick-and-roll on the opposite wing. As Prince drives into the paint, Toney Douglas helps all the way off Knight. Knight, determined to not let the Knicks get away with this all game, swishes the three after Prince kicks it out.

2nd quarter, 8:12, spot-up jumper

Knight is spotting up in the corner as Will Bynum works at the top of the key in a pick-and-roll. Bynum rises to shoot coming off the pick but gets caught in the air with good defense and gets rid of the ball to Knight in the corner. Knight is left open because Mike Bibby never fully got through a screen and is still under the rim. Knight is basically standing wide open for the entire possession. He’s supposed to be a knockdown shooter in this league and when you’re open, you shoot. Miss.

2nd quarter, 0:52, pick-and-roll ball handler jumper

Knight comes down with the ball on the left wing after a Knicks miss. Monroe comes over to set a screen and Bibby (being the horrible defender that he is) goes way under and gets caught up by Monroe. Knight barely even moves and is wide open. Rise and fire, he hits the three.

2nd quarter, 0:00, half court heave

Miss.

3rd quarter, 8:29, spot-up jumper

Off a missed Pistons free throw and offensive rebound, the ball is kicked out to Gordon. Knight is ready and actively spotting up so Gordon swings him the ball. Without hesitation Knight pulls the trigger from deep and drills the trey. It’s always a good shot quickly after a missed free throw and offensive rebound since the defense isn’t set yet. A wise shot by Knight.

3rd quarter, 6:37, spot-up jumper

The Pistons run the same set they did earlier with Bynum in a pick-and-roll at the top of the key only this time Gordon is handling the ball while Knight again spots up in the corner. When Gordon has nothing for himself, he kicks out to Jonas Jerebko who fumbles the pass. Shumpert leaves Knight at the site of a potential turnover but Jerebko recovers in time and throws a low pass to Knight in the corner. Knight doesn’t catch it cleanly and misses a hurried three as Shumpert recovers back to him. A better pass and Knight makes the Knicks pay again for leaving him.

3rd quarter, 4:36, pick-and-roll ball handler jumper

The Pistons are down 24 at this point so effort level isn’t at an all-time high. Knight receives a pick from Jason Maxiell at the top of the key and Maxiell pretty much just slips it. Shumpert barely tries to fight through it and goes under. Knight is left uncomfortably wide open again. Miss.

3rd quarter, 0:03, isolation jumper

With the quarter winding down, Knight is isolated with Bibby on him on the right wing. Knight had enough time to try and get by Bibby but there wasn’t a lot of room. This was probably his worst shot as he shot too soon with three seconds still left and he was a foot or two behind the line. It also didn’t look like he released it right and tried to rush it. Knight needs to realize that he can really take his time and do whatever he wants when he has a slower defender like Bibby on him. Miss.

4th quarter, 9:38, pick-and-roll ball handler jumper

Knight gets a pick from Ben Wallace at the top of the key. Shumpert goes way under the screen and no one hedges because Big Ben is a huge threat as the roll man (or the only left caring about this game is Brandon Knight and me). Knight does the correct thing and steps into a nice, calm three and hits it.

4th quarter, 9:04, pick-and-roll ball handler jumper

Having just hit a three the previous possession combined with the fact that he’s the only player on his team that’s still playing aggressively, Knight again gets a wide open look from the top of the key as Shumpert goes under a lazy, double staggered screen. Knight misses the shot and probably could have taken even more time to shoot it.

4th quarter, 1:04, spot-up jumper

Late in the shot clock and in the game, Knight’s defender, Jeremy Lin, leaves him to help contest another shot. Knight catches and shoots a 26-footer from the top of the key and makes it.

The Verdict

So Brandon Knight shot 13 threes in this game but all of them except maybe one were the right shot. If there is one thing you can count on with Knight, it’s that he will always look to make the right play. He is a shooter, and when his defender keeps leaving him to help or keeps going way under on ball screens, it’s his job to make them pay with a jumper.

Now, this game got out of hand early and wasn’t close so there’s that to consider too. Knight could have used some shot fakes on the perimeter and tried to get in the paint more and create some but making 5-of-12 threes is better than making 6-of-12 twos.

Knight will be a very good pro with a long career. If you look closely at his game tonight (and I most certainly did), you can see why. He is a professional and prepares every day to be at his best. That’s more rare in the NBA than you’d think. Good luck having Brandon Knight on your team and not loving him.