From veteran role players to up-and-coming superstars, the Kentucky Wildcats are well represented in the NBA. Over the next month I’ll be ranking the ten best former ‘Cats with a quick breakdown of each. It will be a bit different from your typical top 10 list, though, as what each player has already accomplished in the league won’t factor in as heavily as what they can potentially offer down the road. In short, think about each player’s upside when critiquing these rankings (Sorry, Tayshaun).
Roughly a year ago, Brandon Knight was traded from the Detroit Pistons to the Milwaukee Bucks. Detroit, the team that drafted him with the 8th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, essentially gave up on him while his new team was doing the same with a former top pick of their own in Brandon Jennings. Knight will now enter his fourth season in the NBA with yet another new coach, all before his 23rd birthday.
Knight, a former top-five recruit in the country, is stuck between positions. He hasn’t been able to grasp the pick-and-roll heavy game that dominates the pro level and lacks the distribution skills and instincts to be an above-average point guard. On the other hand, he’s just 6-foot-3, short for NBA 2-guard standards. If you want to criticize John Calipari’s coaching, the lack of pick-and-rolls in his offense before 2012 would be the closest thing to credible. This might be why Knight has struggled with it, yet he was at Kentucky for just a year and John Wall, despite being more talented, is on his way to mastering it. That’s where we’re at with Knight — like his time at Kentucky, we’re still waiting for more.
Last season with Milwaukee offered a glimpse of hope for Knight (and possibly the Bucks). His assist numbers improved while his turnovers dropped, he set career highs in many per-game statistics and produced an above-average PER (Player Efficiency Rating) for the first time in his career. Outside of a weird drop in his three-point shooting (went from 38 percent as a rookie to 32 percent), Knight displayed small steps of progression in his third year without losing some of the scoring ability that made him an intriguing prospect out of college.
Milwaukee now has one year left to decide what they have in Knight, while Knight himself is facing the biggest season of his career. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract and I doubt an extension from Milwaukee before November in his future, likely leaving him for restricted free agency. The entertaining hiring of Jason Kidd could do wonders for Knight — something that seems to be overlooked to this point — considering Kidd’s knowledge of the point guard position.
If that isn’t the case, we’re likely looking at a solid third guard — a spot that could cost Knight money next summer. Nonetheless, Knight won’t turn 23 until December and still has the talent to be much more. A best case scenario for Knight might be a similar jump that Lance Stephenson had last season with the Indiana Pacers, although Stephenson’s breakout season came with a much better team and situation than what Knight has in Milwaukee.
Once again, it’s a wait-and-see approach with Brandon Knight.