Brandon Knight's Early Struggles Cause for Concern for Kentucky
Initially, there was little concern over transitioning from Wall to Knight. Why should there have been considering Calipari's recent success with the position? In fact, there were some who believed that Knight's game was more suited for the collegiate level. He was, rightfully, labeled as the better shooter of the two. He could stretch defenses and open up lanes in Calipari's vaunted dribble-drive. He had speed. He could penetrate. He was a great decision-maker. All true, indeed.
He is also a freshman.
Through five games, Knight has 14 assists against 23 turnovers. Wall, too, struggled with turnovers last year. He was buoyed in the backcourt, however, by a second point guard, Eric Bledsoe. Knight doesn't have that luxury. Starting alongside him are Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins, two long, athletic types without much ball-handling experience. Off the bench is another freshman, Doron Lamb, but he's considered more of a shooting guard. Undoubtedly, then, the onus is completely on Knight to be the point guard of this team.
This leaves Calipari in a bit of a bind. He is used to having freshman point guards come in and play effective, high-level basketball. But when a player performs like a freshman with no viable backup, what happens? In Calipari's system, it's imperative to have a point guard that can get the ball up the floor and initiate the offense. In fact, that is imperative in any system. And right now, it seems, Knight is struggling with the basic functions of offense. He's been a turnover machine and his shooting has been poor, making only nine of 34 from three.
Which, really, is OK, given that Kentucky's primary offensive weapon is Terrence Jones. But Jones can't do it all. Without another offensive threat, defenses will key on the forward. Knight is supposed to be that guy. He is supposed to be the outside shooter that keeps opposing defenses honest. He is supposed to be the guy, with the 4.38 high school GPA, that makes heady decisions. So far, he's been nothing if not unpredictable.
This is not an indictment on Knight's talent. He has faced more talented teams thus far, compared to what Wall encountered a year ago, and it's still very early in his college career. There is little doubt as to Knight's ability and acumen.He did have 24 points against a solid Washington backcourt in Maui, though he countered the points with eight turnovers and zero assists.
This type of imbalance is supposed to happen with young players. But given Calipari's history, it is cause for concern. Calipari voiced some anxiety over the situation following the Connecticut loss, intimating that this is merely the case of a player not yet understanding the system.
That's understandable. It's a lot to take in, especially given the environment surrounding the Kentucky program. It's a sharp learning curve, no doubt. But if Knight doesn't start producing more consistently, there may be some problems in Lexington. The 'Cats have a "gimme" Tuesday night against Boston University prior to a three-game stretch that has them traveling to UNC before facing Notre Dame in Louisville and Indiana at home. All three games are certainly winnable. But without steady guard play, it will be a struggle.