BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Suns flew to and through the trading deadline like a tornado. They were one of the more active teams in the NBA, especially near the 11th hour. One of the key pieces they came away with when the dust settled was guard Brandon Knight, formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks. Knight is considered to be one of the best young shooting guards in the league, and now he can team up with a fellow Kentucky Wildcat in the backcourt, that being Eric Bledsoe.
The 23-year-old Knight was in the midst of a monster season with Milwaukee before he was dealt to Phoenix. He was averaging 17.8 points, a career-high 5.4 assists, a career-high 4.3 rebounds and a career-high 1.6 steals. Knight was also shooting a career-high 43.5 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three-point range.
After seeing what Knight was able to do with Milwaukee in the first half of the season, you can see why Suns’ general manager Ryan McDonough is excited to see him perform like that in a Suns uniform.
“Brandon’s [Knight] a player we’ve scouted and watched for a long time. We feel like he should’ve been an All-Star in the Eastern Conference this year. He certainly played at an All-Star level,” McDonough said. “He matches up pretty well with the core of our team and we think he’s going to have a terrific career. His best basketball is in front of him.”
The Wildcat connection Knight and Bledsoe share made the move on Thursday a no-brainer. McDonough feels each player will make the other exponentially better.
“[They’re] both players that we feel are just starting to scratch the surface of their potential,” McDonough said. “I think with their age, and their upside and potential productivity, those guys will be in the All-Star conversation for a long time.”
Suns’ President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby reached out to Bledsoe to gauge his excitement level, which was pretty high.
“We talked to Eric [Bledsoe] in kind of a hypothetical way about what he thought of Brandon [Knight], and he was extremely excited to have the opportunity to play with him, so we look forward to seeing those two together,” Babby said.
Knight and Bledsoe are two dynamic scorers who should give defenses fits whenever the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed on Knight’s end and they can hit the court together. With similar styles, there might be cause for concern from a chemistry and gelling standpoint with the two. How will they co-exist when both are used to scoring so much?
McDonough believes that there won’t be any sort of rift between Knight and Bledsoe simply because Knight’s character is above reproach and he won’t let any problems arise.
“Brandon Knight has excelled at everything he’s done in his life,” McDonough said. “All the background and character information and intel was about as good as I’ve ever seen for a player in my decade plus in the NBA.”
“We’re getting an individual of the highest character. His work ethic is legendary,” McDonough said of Knight. “When he was in Detroit [with the Pistons], some of the front office guys told us they were tempted to change the combination lock for the gym because he kept coming back at night and they were worried he was going to get too burned out, that he was going to push himself too hard.”
“He’s one of the top three-point shooters in the league, he’s a big game player, he’s a late game player, he’s a game closer,” McDonough said. “We’ve studied him closely, he’s made a number of shots in those situations this year, including one against us here in Phoenix.”
What McDonough envisions when Knight and Bledsoe are out on the court together is the point guard being the one who handles the ball coming up the court to start the possession. It doesn’t matter if it’s Knight or Bledsoe. After that is when the fun will really kick in for a team McDonough feels should lead the league in fast break points.
“If that initial attack’s not there, or there’s nothing on the strong side, then we envision the guard reversing it to the other guard on the weak side and then he can attack. He can either shoot, drive or pass it.” McDonough said. “If you look at how Golden State’s [Warriors] playing, or how Atlanta’s [Hawks] playing, they move the ball. It’s not one guy sitting up at the top of the key dribbling the ball with nine other guys running around the court. The ball moves.”
“We want to get back to that style of play. I feel like we had more of that last year then we have this year,” McDonough said. “I think Brandon [Knight] and Eric [Bledsoe] will be the leaders of how we play and I think they’ll play great together.”