Draft Debates: Point Guards, Walker vs. Knight

It is no secret that Kyrie Irving is going to be the first point guard taken in this draft. Whether that means he will be the first overall pick remains to be seen, but there is no chance that another point guard usurps him. From there, it has been widely speculated that Kentucky’s Brandon Knight would be the next ball handler off the board, but as the draft looms closer, things could be shuffling a bit. A lot of it will depend on what the Jazz, who many mock drafters have had taking Knight, decide to do with their third pick. If they pass on him, then that opens things up quite a bit. Some teams are rumored to consider Walker a better fit for their offense than Knight. Still, many teams are simply mesmerized by Knight’s upside. Time will tell–but let’s sound off on it.

Brandon Knight, Kentucky

He's represented the Cats, who's next?

What He Brings: The word “upside” is one of the most overused terms when it comes to any draft, but when it comes to picking 18- and 19-year-old kids who have only played a year in college, most of what teams base their decision on is potential, or in other words “upside.” Knight certainly falls into this category–not that he didn’t produce at Kentucky during his one year there where he averaged 17.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 4.2 APG. NBA scouts are in love with his size for the point guard position. He stands at 6’4″ but his length doesn’t detract from his quickness or defensive ability, which is a big plus.

The questions arise as to whether or not he fits as a pure point guard in the NBA. Where Kemba Walker dazzles GMs is with his charismatic personality which instills a confidence that Walker can run a team. Knight, on the other hand, is much more reserved, but so is Derrick Rose. How is that working out for the Bulls? Knight can score in a variety of ways and proved during this past NCAA Tournament that he plays big in big games. His turnover numbers (3.2 per game) are definitely where he needs to work on his game and are part of the reason that some GMs aren’t 100% sold on him as a pure point guard in the NBA, but those are the kind of problems that can be ironed out in his development.

It would not surprise me in the slightest if five years from now Brandon Knight is rated as the best point guard to come out of this class.

Possible Landing Spots: Utah Jazz (3rd pick), Toronto Raptors (5th pick), Sacramento Kings (7th pick), Detroit Pistons (8th pick)

Ideal Fit: There is no way that Knight slips past the Kings at number seven. The question will be whether the Jazz snag him third overall. If so, I think it would be a great fit for both sides. With Devin Harris in the fold, Knight does not have to start and run the offense from day one. He can learn the system and develop behind a veteran player. The Jazz are amassing young talent that will be able to grow and develop with Knight. They have another pick in the lottery (#12) this year and added rookies Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward to the squad last season.

Hypothetically, if the Jazz were to choose a guy like Alec Burks or Chris Singleton with their later pick, they would have quite a group of youngsters to develop. A lineup of Knight, Burks/Singleton, Hayward, Favors, and Al Jefferson in three years could have other Western Conference teams a little nervous about their futures.

Kemba Walker, Connecticut

Will Kemba's college game translate to the NBA? Dalton thinks: YES.

What He Brings: I addressed Kemba Walker in a previous article, yet here I am again trying to defend him. So what does he bring? You mean except athleticism, great passing, and an incredible ability to defend as well as score the basketball? You mean except a Big East tournament championship in a year where the league received the most bids a conference every received? You mean except a national championship?

I’m just going to focus on the Brandon Knight comparison in order to avoid repeating my previous points. Often, in these draft debates, one is often basing their opinions on hypothetical scenarios because, in most cases, many of the top players in the draft do not play against each other. In this case not only did Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight play against each other, but they did it TWICE!

In the first matchup, in November, Kemba destroyed Brandon Knight scoring 29 points and added six assists and two steals. Conversely Knight contributed 6 points 5 assists and one steal in a blowout Kentucky loss (84-67) at home. But it was only one game right? And it was early in Knight’s freshman year!

Fast forward to the Final Four in March where UCONN won again, albeit a much closer contest. The stats are similar (Kemba 18pts, 7 assts, Knight 17pts, 6 assts), but if I am a GM I am looking at the end result. Brandon Knight despite playing with guys like Terrence Jones (who would’ve been a top ten pick in this year’s draft) could not beat a Kemba Walker led team in two attempts. Meanwhile, Kemba turned guys such as the under recruited Jeremy Lamb and Tyler Olander into household names. Head to head, Walker is 2 up on Brandon Knight (as well as one up on Kawhi Leonard and Derrick Williams). I guess winning games does not matter anymore.

It’s easy to become too concerned with collegiate success. I understand that. Carmelo had a hell of a freshman year at Syracuse, but Lebron James was the better pick based on potential. Similarly Emeka Okafor had a great career at UCONN and won a national championship his junior year (sound familiar) but Dwight Howard was the number one pick. But the reason that these were smarter decisions (although risky) was that James and Howard were” once a decade” type of talents. Not only did that already possess a sophisticated array of basketball skills coming out of high school (particularly Lebron), but they were also world class athletes, something Carmelo and Okafor were not. Athleticism is crucial to becoming an NBA star and it make the gambles on Howard and James worth it.

Kemba is a much better athlete and basketball player than Brandon Knight and, as a result, has a much higher ceiling than Brandon Knight even though Knight is two years younger. The pick is Kemba.

Possible Landing Spots: Toronto Raptors (5th pick), Sacramento Kings (7th pick), Detroit Pistons (8th pick).

Ideal Fit: The Raptors and the Pistons both need a PG. I think Toronto is a better fit because it would allow Kemba to immediately be the face of a franchise (for some reason the Andrea Barnagni jersey has not been a hot seller). The Kings on paper look like a solid fit. It would allow Tyreke Evans to play his more natural small forward position and would provide the Kings with a lot of offensive firepower. However, Kemba likes to have the ball in his hands and likes to look for his own shot from time to time. Apparently, there is a crazy rumor coming out of Sacramento that DeMarcus Cousins has a bit of a temper, especially when he doesn’t get the basketball. Could only be a rumor though.

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5 Comments

Filed under Draft Debates, NBA Draft, Opinion

5 responses to “Draft Debates: Point Guards, Walker vs. Knight

  1. mays1850

    Whoa whoa whoa, Big East BIAS aside, you’re severely overstating how good of an athlete Kemba Walker is, at least relative to Knight. Knight is an excellent athlete and brings more size and length to the position than Walker.

    Knight is also 2 years younger so not sure why it’s obvious that Walker has more upside. In fact, Walker was pretty much a no-show until his junior year where he played against a conference that is proving to not have had all that much NBA talent in it.

    Walker was able to take over games because of the players around him, though I think we can agree that Jeremy Lamb is a star in the making (and the reason they pulled away from Butler in the title game I might add). Knight had to get his teammates involved a lot more.

    Compare their freshmen year numbers, it’s not even close. Knight wins out there. Sorry, but you absolutely have to take that into consideration. I’d love to see what Knight, and plenty of other prospects who come out early for that matter, could do if they stayed through their junior year.

    • Calamander Weez

      …but no one’s drafting a post-freshman year Kemba, they’re drafting the current version, making the comparison a bit less valid. I see your point in making it, but we should be concerned with the Kemba Walker that is actually gonna get drafted, not model 1.0, and how he stack up to the current B. Knight

  2. mays1850

    Exactly though. You made my point for me. Kemba wouldn’t have been in the conversation as a freshman and look how he has grown. Now, I’d argue that he doesn’t have all that much room left to grow but that is my personal opinion. Knight on the other hand did what he did as an 18-19 year old freshman. Imagine what he can do in another two years. Upside is the key here, and you’re crazy if you think Walker has more upside than Knight.

  3. What do you mean? Kemba played on a loaded UCONN team his freshman year and still was a major contributor. His soph yr UCONN was just a disaster and Calhoun missed half the season. So it wasnt like Kemba was shit before this year.

  4. mays1850

    Well, for the sake of proving our points…

    Kemba Walker (Fr.)
    25.2 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.8 TO

    Brandon Knight (Fr.)
    35.9 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.2 APG, 3.2 TO

    OK–so maybe I overstated Walker being a “no-show”, and UConn had a good team that year, they made it to the Final Four. But, so did Kentucky this year. The question is about a comparison between those two players. Both were on Final Four teams, but one had a much bigger role on his Final Four team as a freshman than the other. The point is, players progress. Walker obviously has gone through a great progression so far, but how much room does he have left to grow? Knight clearly has more time and I’d argue more raw physical tools to work with.

    I’m still waiting to hear how Walker has more upside than Knight…

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