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May 18, 2011

Regardless of position, Knight has NBA skills

There's some question as to Brandon Knight's NBA identity.

Draft analysts are asking if the Kentucky freshman is a point guard or a combo guard as he enters the NBA, and it's a fair question to ask.

But Ryan Blake, the NBA's co-director of scouting, figures the point guard point is moot.

"In our league, we've got Derrick Rose," Blake said. "Is he a true point? We've got a lot of combo points playing point."

At 6-foot-3, Knight has the size to defend either backcourt position. He has the shooting stroke and pure scoring ability to provide offensive punch at the two, but he's displayed the court vision and leadership to run a team at the point.

"It's very difficult for a freshman to come in and run a team," Blake said. "He matured (as a point guard) over the year, but he was also mature (personally). I like the way he led the team. He has solid all-around skills as an athletic point guard. He's a competitor, he's got a good motor, plays with energy. He's a leader. He's a good defender, too, but he can also shoot the ball, and I think some people have sort of labeled him as a combo guard."

It's not a label that bothers Blake, who has seen NBA point guard traits in Knight's game.

"He used pick-and-roll well," Blake said. "He dished well. He penetrated with drop-off passes. If you look at our league, we have very few what we would call old-school 'legitimate' point guards, the Jason Kidd/Steve Nash type that can hold the ball, deliver, score, make those choices. Those are always going to have to be learned traits, regardless. Rajon Rondo, for example, is able to penetrate and dish, and one reason he does that so well is because he can't shoot the ball. But Brandon has all-around skills and an upside."

It doesn't hurt that Knight, who averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists per game, showed a willingness to take and make baskets at crunch time.

Knight won NCAA Tournament games against Princeton and Ohio State with late baskets, and though he misfired, he had the ball in his hands for potential game-winners at Florida and Arkansas.

That will "absolutely" be a factor in teams' evaluations of Knight, Blake said.

"One of the things I always do is look to see who's going to take the last shot," Blake said. "If the guy's consistently knocking down the game-winner, or even at the half, it's important. Whose hands are you going to get it in for those clutch shots? Those are all pieces of the puzzle."


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