Brandon Knight is about to be paid; the Phoenix Suns are reportedly signing him to a 5-year 70 Million-Dollar deal.
It is a well-deserved payday for the rising fifth-year player from our beloved Wildcats. Knight averaged 17 points 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game this past season. He has the same stat line minus two points for his career average as well.
If you were to ask the average Big Blue Nation-ite to rattle off the best guards that have played at UK under Coach Calipari the listing would likely go something like this:
"John Wall, Eric Bledsoe... Um, Doron Lamb, Teague led us to the title.... Um, Devin Booker was awesome, oh, and Brandon Knight, he was pretty awesome too."
I would not call Knight a forgotten man, but he is certainly not at the tip of the tongue when discussing all-time great guards at UK... but he should be. I wanted to revisit Knight's year in Lexington to recall just how great a Wildcat he was.
The fact of the matter is that Brandon Knight was in a tough situation coming into Kentucky due to his predecessor; John Wall. Wall was the #1 pick of the NBA draft, he made the John Wall dance viral, and he instantly and single-handedly put Kentucky basketball at the center of the coolness universe.
We could have signed Jesus Christ himself to follow up Wall and he would have still had to earn the respect of the BBN.
Knight made an early impression in the season's opening blue-white scrimmage when he led all scorers with 37 points, and 8 rebounds on 14-20 shooting. Granted, it was an intra-squad scrimmage, but all of BBN knew it was a good sign.
Soon after, Knight would be named to the pre-season All-SEC team along with teammate Darius Miller and the expectations would rise. The expectations swung into full bore when he was named to the Naismith pre-season watch list for the country's most valuable player.
Knight would lead the Wildcats to an unlikely Final Four while leading the Wildcats in a multitude of categories.
- Points - 17.3 points per game
- Field Goals Made - 5.7
- 3-Pt Field Goals Made - 2.3
- Assists - 4.2
- Minutes Played - 35.9 per game (4 full minutes more than anyone else)
While Knight had a fantastic season overall and we will discuss his NCAA tournament heroics a little later, he also had some great individual performances during the season.
- He led the ‘Cats in scoring with 21 in a route of Portland at the Rose Garden.
- He scored 24 against Washington in Maui and sparked two second-half runs to lead to a win.
- He scored 20 to help lead the ‘Cats over Notre Dame.
- He scored 18 points and buried a late three pointer to send the Hoosiers packing.
- Everyone remembers Josh Harrelson going off at the Yum Center for 23 points and 14 rebounds to beat UL, but do you remember Knight scoring 25 points on 4-6 shooting from three?
- He scored 23 on the road in Columbia including a late stretch of eight straight points himself to hold off South Carolina.
- He had a Stat Line of 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists at Florida in a heartbreaking loss where he was the sole reason we had a chance.
- He had a stat Line of 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists on the road at Arkansas.
- He led the ‘Cats into Knoxville for a win over UT with 19 points.
Knight would proceed to lead the Wildcats through the SEC tournament in three relatively uneventful wins while averaging 15 points and 6 assists per game. That season's SEC Championship would help earn a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, only to face a giant killer in #13 seed Princeton.
Knight would have his worst day as a Wildcat for the first 39 minutes of the game, even finding himself on the bench with less than a minute to go and zero points. Cal would call a timeout with 37 seconds left and got Knight back into the game for his offense. Kentucky would dribble out the clock and with just a few seconds left, the scoreless Knight penetrated down the lane and hit a highly contested, high degree of difficulty layup for the win.
If Kentucky had lost that game, they would have finished the season at 25-9, and the fan base would have been robbed of a storied run while still licking its paws over last seasons West Virginia loss. The Calipari Era could have looked much different, to be honest.
Speaking of West Virginia, the NCAA *randomly* (wink, wink) put the Mountaineers back in the same bracket with the ‘Cats, and they would face them for a Sweet 16 birth. There would be no need for late game heroics by Knight due to his early, mid, and late game domination. Knight would drop a career high 30 points in a game that was never in doubt, exacting a bit of revenge for the Big Blue Nation.
Next up for the Wildcats were the overall #1 seed Ohio State Buckeyes with a trip to the elite-8 at stake. Knight would struggle for most of the game, only scoring nine points while turning it over six times. However, with the game on the line, Coach Cal knew where to go. Brandon Knight took the ball, went right at super defender Aaron Craft, and pulled up from 15 feet to hit the game winner with five seconds left.
Next was a date with the rival North Carolina Tar Heels for the right to go to the Final 4. Knight would lead the way scoring 22 points to go with 7 rebounds and 4 assists while icing the game with free throws down the stretch. The win put the ‘Cats in the Final 4 for the first time in 13 years. In a time where we have been to 4 of the last 5 final fours, it was a monumental job getting that team to break that streak.
While the dream for #8 would end the next weekend in a loss vs. Connecticut, Brandon Knight's legacy was forever cemented as a Wildcat great. Knight would go on to be drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the #8 pick. Now he is on the verge of a nearly max deal, a pretty good career arc for anyone.
It begs the question, how does Knight really stack up to his peers Wall, Teague, Rose, and Evans? Below is a listing of the per 40 minutes averages of each player during their time in college.
It is pretty clear that Derrick Rose has been the best of that bunch, especially considering they were one minute away from a National Title that season. However, you can make a very valid case that Brandon Knight's time at Kentucky was as god as John Wall's time, if not better.
They scored virtually the same points and dished out assists at a similar pace. While Wall certainly rebounded the ball better, he also turned it over about 31% more often than Knight did. Knight also won the SEC freshman of the week award six times vs. Wall's five. There is also the fact that Knight got the ‘Cats to their first final four in 13 years, a feat Wall came up short on just a year before.
I am not intending to get into a Wall vs. Knight debate, truthfully I would take Wall over Knight... but it is not an easy decision.
Brandon Knight is going to be a staple in the NBA for years to come and this is likely going to be one of several big contracts for him. Just make sure and remember him the next time you are thinking of the best to ever wear the blue and white.