Phoenix Suns point guard Brandon Knight has gone from starter to sixth man. The question is: which teams should trade to make him a starter again?
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Oct 5, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (11) reacts in the first half of the game against the Utah Jazz at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
The Phoenix Suns are preparing to go through the 2016-17 NBA regular season with Brandon Knight as the sixth man. The move certainly looks good on paper, but Knight has started 316 of his 332 games played and has yet to enter the prime of his career.
With Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker locking up the Suns’ starting jobs at the two guard positions, however, a handful of NBA teams should do their best to pry a potentially unhappy Knight from Phoenix.
Knight, 24, is coming off of the most productive season of his NBA career. He finished 2015-16 with averages of 19.6 points, 5.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.3 3-point field goals made on a slash line of .415/.342/.852.
Knight missed 30 games due to injury, but still managed to average a career-best 19.6 points and match his career-high with 120 3-point field goals made.
Now in his sixth NBA season, Knight is being asked to accept the role of sixth man. It isn’t necessarily a demotion if it fits a player’s style and skill set, but Knight is a borderline All-Star who’s now a backup on a non-contender.
It’s unlikely that anything will happen for at least another month, but which teams should pay the steep price of trading for Knight at some point during the 2016-17 NBA season?
If Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings aren’t the answers, then why wait to overpay in free agency for the player who is? Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
5. New York Knicks
If Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings manage to play up to their full potential, then you can scrap this idea. It’s even safe to believe that Rose and Jennings will play well enough for the New York Knicks to not consider making a trade.
With both Jennings and Rose set to become free agents and unprecedented contracts being handed to questionably deserving players, however, it’d behoove the Knicks to look Brandon Knight’s way.
Knight is due $56,500,000 over the next four seasons—a bargain of a price compared to the contracts that were handed out in 2016. That’s likely to be more affordable than the salaries that Rose and Jennings will command if they play well in 2016-17.
Beyond the financial numbers is the reality that Knight has a skill set that’s tailor made for Jeff Hornacek’s adaptation of the triangle offense.
Knight played for Hornacek in 2014-15 and 2015-16 with the Phoenix Suns. As it applies to the Knicks, he’s an above-average 3-point shooter who can create off the bounce and facilitate—skills that have improved during every season of his NBA career.
It’s far too early for the Knicks to even consider trading for a different point guard, but if Jennings or Rose aren’t the answers, then it would be wise to target Knight.
Nov 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) reacts after guard Langston Galloway (10) scores during the second half of a game against the Phoenix Suns at the Smoothie King Center. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 112-111 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
4. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are in desperate need of offensive firepower. Anthony Davis is in the midst of yet another all-time season, but the Pelicans are without starters Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, and recently parted ways with injured shooting guard Lance Stephenson.
New Orleans began to address the need for offensive depth by signing free agent guard Archie Goodwin, but Brandon Knight is a far more proven commodity.
If the Pelicans could somehow swing a trade for Knight, then they’d go a long way towards fixing the offense. Knight’s ability to space the floor, facilitate, and create off the bounce are all sorely missed skills in New Orleans’ current offense.
Holiday may still be the answer for the Pelicans at point guard, but he’s on an expiring contract and Knight is locked up through 2020.
Knight and Davis have the necessary skill sets to thrive in an offense run by current head coach Alvin Gentry. Knight’s also on an affordable contract that wouldn’t restrict New Orleans from making a splash in the upcoming periods of free agency.
The Pelicans need to help Davis by providing him with playmakers who can consistently create on offense. Knight undoubtedly qualifies.
Nov 4, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Deron Williams (middle) and Dallas Mavericks guard Justin Anderson (right) react during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
3. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks have three high-quality players at point guard in J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, and Deron Williams. All three are capable of filling their roles at a collectively postseason-caliber level, but none are truly established performers.
With the Mavericks committing long-term money to Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews, it’d be wise to round out the promising perimeter with Brandon Knight.
Matthews is in the second season of a four-year deal worth $70 million with the Mavericks. Barnes signed a four-year contract worth just under $94.5 million with Dallas during the summer of 2016.
Knight, meanwhile, is in the second season of a five-year deal worth $70 million, which would give Dallas at least three seasons with that perimeter trio.
A healthy Dirk Nowitzki could undoubtedly help that promising perimeter make it back to the playoffs in 2017. The question marks pertain to whether or not Nowitzki can remain healthy and how the Mavericks could pull of such a trade in the first place.
If Dallas can somehow negotiate a trade for Knight, however, it’d go a long way towards solidifying its future with young and promising talent.
Nov 4, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson reacts in the second quarter against Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
2. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets won’t have a first-round draft pick until 2019. Former general manager Billy King traded the 2016, 2017, and 2018 first-round draft picks as a part of the deal that landed Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn.
Due to the insufficiency of young talent and no guarantee that free agency will change that, the Nets should give serious thought to trading for Brandon Knight.
Knight is a 24-year-old point guard who has four years at an affordable $56,500,000 million remaining on his current contract. He’s already emerged as a borderline All-Star and still has untapped potential to be explored.
If any head coach can help Knight maximize his upside as an NBA player, it’s Kenny Atkinson—one of the best player development specialists in the Association.
Atkinson has been credited with Jeremy Lin’s breakout season with the New York Knicks and Al Horford’s development with the Atlanta Hawks. Knight, meanwhile, has compiled averages of 17.8 points and 5.0 assists since 2013-14.
Lin could be the answer for the Nets at point guard, but Knight would give Brooklyn a younger complement or alternative who could make up for the scarcity of draft picks.
Oct 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) dribbles past Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 103-97. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
1. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have a surplus of big men and an absence of young and established point guards. Sergio Rodriguez is incredibly skilled, but at 30 years of age, he represents the short-term future of the Sixers.
If Philadelphia is willing to part ways with one of its big men, then bringing Brandon Knight to Philadelphia could solidify its efforts in the short and long-term.
Knight’s age, 24, permits Philadelphia to continue developing its players along the current timeline. Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Dario Saric are 22 years of age, and Jahlil Okafor and Ben Simmons are 20.
If the 76ers were willing to deal either Okafor or Noel to land Knight, then they’d solidify the core and help push Philadelphia into the future.
Knight, Simmons, Saric, and Embiid would have the potential to form one of the best four-man lineups in the NBA. Determining whether Okafor or Noel would best fit alongside Embiid will be essential, but it’s clear that Knight could fill a need.
Knight can facilitate, drive the lane, shoot the 3-ball, or work without the rock to create offense for himself and others under head coach Brett Brown.