On Friday afternoon, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports broached a topic that most Suns fans have probably never thought of, nor wanted to even consider. However, it might not be a bad idea at all – unless one thing in particular happens.
When Ryan McDonough traded for Brandon Knight in 2015, the Suns’ General Manager proclaimed that Knight was the best player involved in the deal on all sides. High praise for a player who in his Phoenix Suns career has been highly underwhelming as essentially the replacement for Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas.
Knight’s tenure has been so poor in Phoenix that the Suns were known to be actively shopping him throughout last season and this past offseason, with no luck. To add injury to insult, Knight’s left ACL tore in a pickup game in Florida this summer, unfortunately torpedoing any opportunity for the Suns to deal him, or certainly move him without having to ship off another young player or future draft pick just to get someone to bite.
However, while his injury all but guaranteed that Knight would be back with the Phoenix Suns next season, the demand to and impending trade of Eric Bledsoe has almost assured that when the 2018-19 season begins: Brandon Knight will be the best point guard on the roster.
Certainly that statement is heavily caveated as the Suns could possibly trade for a point guard that they value higher than Knight and when the season begins he remains an option off the bench. Plus, depending on their record this season and thus their position, they too could draft a point guard next summer, particularly Luka Doncic, who is currently trending as a potential number one overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Yet should neither of those come to fruition, even with Knight’s downright dreadful 2016-17 (which is arguably an understatement) he could very well be the best point guard on the roster with Eric Bledsoe gone, and in the least a decent scoring compliment to Devin Booker.
Suns fans should be willing to give Brandon Knight the benefit of the doubt when considering this situation for next year because of one tremendously important reason: Earl Watson was Knight’s head coach for the last year and a half, and had Knight both playing out of position and off the bench.
In only a small sample size, the Suns seem like a brand new team under interim coach Jay Triano, and as elements of his offensive and defensive systems are put into place, coupled with his propensity to play players at their natural positions as well as reward players with playing time for hard work and effort, certainly on the defensive end, playing for Triano might be the blessing Knight needs in Phoenix. If the only true starting point guard on the roster, and in a situation where he could be given a legitimate shot to hold the starting point guard position, Knight may very well flourish in the role the way McDonough envisioned.
It is widely believed and accepted now in Phoenix that the multi-PG approach that the Suns attempted originally under Jeff Hornacek and the again with Watson, just does not work. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight each need the ball in their hands to be most effective. They are both scorers and use their scoring to open up passing lanes to presumably now wide-open shooters.
Playing alongside another point guard, and then in Earl Watson’s system (I guess we can call what Watson had a system, right?) and Knight was set up for failure. A 23-year-old kid – when acquired – suddenly told to play out of position, and then for arguably the worst head coach in franchise history, and Knight was never going to have the impact that anyone invlolved would have wanted, certainly not worth a $70M extension, and the trading of the fabled Los Angeles Lakers first round pick.
Many athletes succeed most when they are faced with no obstacles. Knight has faced nothing but hoops to jump since his acquisition in Phoenix. Granted the fact that he was never able to overcome those stumbling blocks to grow and develop into the player worthy of the contract and expectations could be fair insight into his mental fragility.
After this season, the Suns should finally the cusp of scratching their way back into the playoffs, building a young roster that can develop together to form the kind of cohesive unit needed to make a deep run. To lead that charge the team will need a competent and capable point guard that will not only stretch defenses, but possibly be a second option late in games if Devin Booker is unable to get a clean shot.
None of this is to say that Brandon Knight WILL be the future point guard. While Gambo further reported that sources within the organization said that using Knight as the the team’s starter next season is a legitimate option, effects from the injury alone could hamper his skills and ability to be the active, athletic guard he once was.
That being said, if nothing more than as a short-term option, Brandon Knight may not be the point guard the Valley of the Suns wants, but he may be the point guard we need – at least in 2018-19.