RaptorsHQ Prospect Preview #5 - Brandon Knight

The full goods on Mr. Brandon Knight...

Continuing their look at the upcoming draft's top prospects, the HQ turns their attention to Kentucky's Brandon Knight...

Back at the end of May, we asked readers in one of our regular Sunday polls, if Toronto not being able to draft Brandon Knight was the end of the world.

The poll was inspired by the fact that many mock drafts had Knight being snatched up before the Raptors even had a shot at him, most likely, by the Utah Jazz with the third overall pick.

The results of the poll though indicated that missing out on Knight wasn't the worst thing that could happen, as most readers felt that Bryan Colangelo could find value elsewhere in the draft.

But there's no question though that Knight appears to be the preferred target in this draft for the majority of Raptors' fans.  He's not a perfect choice, but in this draft, few are, and Knight certainly brings a number of skills to the table that bode very well for a long and distinguished NBA career.

What are those skills?

Well for a closer look at the freshman phenom, we reached out to SB Nation's Kentucky Wildcats' blog, "A Sea of Blue," and Managing Editor Glenn Logan gave us this in-depth look at the young PG:

Dossier:  Brandon Knight, Freshman, University of Kentucky

High school highlights:

  • Two-time Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year; Only the third junior ever to receive the award (LeBron James and Greg Oden were the other two);
  • Lead high scool (Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, a mostly academic-oriented institution) to 2 straight Florida 3A championships;
  • Entered the University of Kentucky with a 4.3 GPA.  Advanced placement classes plus his single year at UK left him just a few hours short of junior classification after only one year at UK.

University of Kentucky Highlights:

  • Had 31 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in his debut game at UK;
  • Leading freshman scorer in Kentucky history, surpassing such players as John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Rex Chapman;
  • 2nd-leading assist total for a freshman at UK.  Only John Wall has more;
  • Most 3-point field goals ever by a freshman at Kentucky;
  • Led Kentucky in scoring in his only year at the university;
  • Led Kentucky to their first Final Four in 13 seasons;

Professional game:  SWOT analysis:

Strengths:

  • Excellent pick-and-roll player, unquestionably the best P&R point guard available in the draft.  Can make the three at any range, and is adept at the pocket pass off the roll.
  • Extremely, but not freakishly athletic;
  • Changes ends faster than any guard in the 2011 draft, and arguably as fast as any current pro other than John Wall;
  • Off-the-charts basketball IQ.  One of the most intelligent and intellectually curious players to enter the NBA in a long while at this level of skill;
  • Extremely coachable.  Accepts coaching well, and understands instructions;
  • Professional attitude.  Never gets too "up" and never gets down on himself or his ability.  Supremely confident, but does not need to demonstrate to show it;
  • Perhaps the hardest-working player ever to play at Kentucky.  His work ethic has no peer anywhere;
  • Unlimited shooting range, good passing skills;
  • Leader on and off the floor;
  • Can get his own shot anytime;
  • Extremely quick shot release, quicker than anyone in this draft;
  • Fearless.  Will take the big shot anytime, succeed or fail, and come right back and do it again;

Weaknesses:

  • Weak left hand.  Can finish left, but weakly.  Does not go left well off the bounce;
  • Not a great defender.  Guards poorly to his left and lacks a commitment to defense;
  • Good, but not great floor vision.  Can turn the ball over a lot, does not see the weak side defender that well;
  • Tends to shoot too quickly, and will often take the first open look;
  • Not a true point guard, and had a scoring mentality that often works against his position;
  • Does not fight through screens as well as he should for his size;
  • Not a particularly physical player, and does not play through contact that well.

Opportunities:

  • Dedicated to learning the point, but has a way to go to get there at the NBA level.  Has not quite learned to sacrifice his scoring for setting up his teammates.
  • Can really help a young team grow by showing his leadership.  Is unafraid to learn from veterans, and has the patience to do whatever it takes to help his team.
  • With work, he can become a knock-down 3-point shooter, and gets the shot off so fast he needs very little room.

Threats:

  • Plays a very fast, sometimes reckless game.  Has never had questions about durability, but does put himself in a position to get injured a lot.
  • Can be too much of a volume shooter at times, and this works against his position.  We don't know if he can unlearn that reflex to score in favor of setting up teammates.
  • Will not have near the speed advantage over pros as he did over college players.  Not sure how he will react to that.

Overall, Brandon Knight is the first or second best NBA point guard in the draft.  He is less a pure point that Kyrie Irving, but has a much quicker release, comparable athleticism and can learn to be a dominant left-handed player with his work ethic and the right instruction.  Has better size and strength than either Irving or Kemba Walker.

Brandon Knight does not know how to be an NBA point, and his likely role will be more along the lines of a combo guard until he unlearns his reflexive scoring mentality.  His handle is good with both hands and he has a good, but not great first step.  Athletically, he is a cut below the Derrick Roses and John Walls of the world, and does not finish as well at the rim as the top point guards in the NBA.  But Knight is an utterly tireless and completely dedicated worker, and if he has to work 12 hours a day in the off season, he will.    

A big thanks to Glenn for his insightful breakdown of Knight, one that I think points out the various reasons folks seem to be high on the former Wildcat, and yet also have legitimate concerns about his game at the next level.  Indeed he's no John Wall or Derrick Rose, but I'd argue in this draft that he's as good as it gets after Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams, and these clips help show off a lot of what's to like about his game.


Will he be around at 5?

That's the big question right now and if Toronto decides that Knight is the player they want at all costs, they may have to trade up to grab him.

Right now though it sounds like the Raps are considering a number of options still, including another successful NCAA guard, Kemba Walker, so it may come down to the workouts in terms of deciding which horse the Raps run with.

Oh...and those workouts start tomorrow.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Mr. Knight and Mr. Walker both showed up?

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