The Milwaukee Bucks’ surprising start can be attributed to a number of different factors. You could point to Jason Kidd, who has done a terrific job in his first year as the team’s head coach. Jabari Parker, who prior to suffering a season-ending knee injury looked like a favorite to win Rookie of the Year, deserves credit as well. The healthy return of Larry Sanders and the massive impact he has made on the defensive end has been big, as well as the continued growth of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has made tremendous strides in his sophomore season. They all have played a significant role and have the Bucks unexpectedly thinking about the playoffs. However, with that said, you could also argue that no player has been more important to Milwaukee than point guard Brandon Knight.
Knight has been the engine that has driven the Bucks early on this season. He is the only player who has started in every one of the team’s 28 games. He is averaging 17.5 points, 5.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game, leading the team in all three categories. Knight has the team’s highest PER at 18 and the highest win shares on the team at 2.1.
While those numbers are certainly impressive, his improved field goal percentage is what has really helped Knight elevate his game to the next level. He had shown throughout his brief NBA career that he could score the ball, but this season he is putting up career-best shooting numbers. Knight has seen his true shooting percentage reach 56.6 percent on the season, while shooting 43.4 percent from the field, 39.2 percent from three and 85.9 percent from the free throw line (all of which are career-highs).
By all accounts Knight is having his best season as a pro and he couldn’t have picked a better time do it since he’ll become a restricted free agent after the season. Knight and Bucks were in talks on an extension prior to the October 31 deadline, but were unable to come to an agreement. Knight will have the chance to sign an offer sheet with another team, but Milwaukee has the right to match. With the way Knight is playing, the fact that the two sides couldn’t come to terms on an extension is looking more and more like it is something that will work in Knight’s favor.
Although Knight is having an excellent season, he isn’t without flaws. Despite playing the majority of his minutes at point guard and improving on his assist numbers, passing has never been his strength. He can make all of the simple passes, but struggles at times creating shots for his teammates outside of the framework of the offense. He is still only 23 years old, but has yet to show much development in that area of his game. Similarly when the offense breaks down, Knight tends to look for his own shot rather than attempting to create for teammates. This doesn’t necessarily make Knight a bad player, but more raises the question of whether he would be best suited playing off the ball. Early on this season, Coach Kidd toyed with idea of playing Knight alongside Kendall Marshall, a more traditional point guard, starting them both in the Bucks’ sixth game of the season against the Pistons. That experiment was short lived, lasting only one game, and ever since Knight has resumed his role as the starting point guard.
All this begs the question, how much is Knight worth? Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry, two point guards who are both regarded as better players than Knight, signed new contracts in the last six months that pay them $12 million per year. It’s hard to imagine Knight signing a deal that would see him out earn either Lowry or Walker, but with the new lucrative TV deal on the horizon it may be more realistic than many would think. Contracts will be significantly larger going forward, which is something Knight will surely factor into negotiations when he and the Bucks resume talks.
Knight has put in the work to improve himself and is really reaping the benefits this season. Kidd has proven to be a great fit not only for the Bucks for but for Knight personally, as the future Hall of Fame point guard has helped Knight’s development. Both Knight and the Bucks weren’t discouraged that an extension wasn’t reached prior to Oct. 31 and seem confident the two sides will be able to come an agreement when they restart contract talks. Of course if the two sides can’t get on the same page, the Bucks have the ability to match any offer made on Knight. The question then becomes what is the tipping point? At what number would the Bucks let Knight walk? Knight has indicated that he would like to remain in Milwaukee and with the way he has played this season, it’s looks like it’s going to take an exorbitant offer to pry him away.
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