BY: ED COLE
TEMPE, Ariz. — The word of the Phoenix Suns re-signing guard Brandon Knight swirled near and on the beginning of the NBA’s free agency period. The reports of a five-year, $70 million deal – the same deal fellow guard Eric Bledsoe got – came from every NBA expert who had a Twitter account.
The team finally made Knight’s deal official and announced it on Friday.
“We are delighted to have reached a multi-year agreement with Brandon (Knight),” Suns’ President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. “He (Knight) will be an integral member of our team on the court and will enhance our culture with his leadership and professionalism.”
Phoenix acquired Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 19. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to see much of Knight after the signing. He injured his ankle on March 9 against the Golden State Warriors, and he missed 16 of Phoenix’s last 17 games, as that pesky injury wouldn’t let Knight hit the court like he wanted to.
The small sample of work Knight did provide was pretty impressive though. In the 11 games he played for the Suns, Knight averaged 17.0 points per game on 42.2 percent shooting from the field, 38.9 percent shooting from three-point range and 87.4 percent shooting from the free-throw line – all career-highs for Knight. Knight also averaged career-highs in assists (5.2), rebounds (3.9) and steals (1.4).
At 23-years-old, Knight was the second-youngest qualified player in the league to average at least 15 points and five assists per game last season. Only Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard Kyrie Irving was younger.
Knight joined Warriors’ guard Stephen Curry, Los Angeles Clippers’ guard Chris Paul and Irving as the only four players to rank in the top-30 in scoring average, assists per game, steals per game, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage. Knight cracked the 20-point barrier 25 times last season, including a season-high 34 points vs. Charlotte on Dec. 23 while with the Bucks, and 28 points in a Phoenix win at Orlando on March 4.
In four years, Knight’s played in 276 games (265 starts) with the Detroit Pistons (2011-13), Bucks (2013-15) and the Suns. Knight was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team after his first season with Detroit, and he played in the Rising Stars Challenge twice: in 2012 and 2013 at the NBA All-Star Weekend.
The Pistons originally selected Knight with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, after Knight’s lone season at the University of Kentucky in 2010-11. In that one season, Knight earned All-SEC Second Team honors after setting school freshman records in scoring (657 points; 17.3 ppg) and three-point field goals made (87). He was named the NCAA East Region Most Outstanding Player after leading Kentucky to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. It was the Wildcats longest Final Four drought in their history.
As a matter of fact, the Wildcats are represented quite well on the Suns’ 13-man roster. Of Phoenix’s six guards, four of them attended the University of Kentucky: Knight, Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Archie Goodwin.