Seven games into the season and the pitchforks have already come out.
The Phoenix Suns sit at 3-4 after two disappointing losses to the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder, and due to the team's early struggles, everyone on the roster is open to scrutiny. However, a great deal of the ire seems to have settled on the man who most recently committed eight turnovers to one assist against Oklahoma City — Brandon Knight.
Knight, entering his first full season as Eric Bledsoe's backcourt mate, is averaging 17.9 points, 4.4 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals while shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range. He is also averaging 3.4 turnovers in his first seven games.
Between the high turnover rate and sub-standard shooting percentages, many are down on Knight, seeing him as more of a booby prize than a worthy replacement after last season's trade-deadline drama. But writing him off after 1/12th of a season is a bit premature, and here are three reasons why.
1. His numbers aren't bad
Outside of his turnovers and 3-point percentage, his numbers are as good or better than his career averages across the board — including career highs in rebounds (4.3) and blocks (0.9).
But it's hard to look past those turnovers, and with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.29, it's even less forgivable. However, outside of the eight turnovers against OKC and the six he had on opening night against the Dallas Mavericks, he has averaged just 2 turnovers per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.7. Yes, Knight does need to cut down on his turnovers, especially those of the live-ball variety, but it is worth noting that his two-worst turnover games were also games where the team as a whole looked its worst. Outside of those, he has actually been a positive.
And yes, Knight has not shot the ball particularly well on a regular basis to begin the season, but he is shooting better than he did last season in Phoenix and is neck and neck with Bledsoe in effective field-goal percentage, which takes the value of 3-pointers into account. Knight's effective field-goal percentage this season is 48.7 to Bledsoe's 48.8. Neither percentage is great, but it does show that Knight isn't single-handedly dragging the team down into the mire.
2. The Suns have struggled as a team
Laying the blame primarily at Knight's feet for the Suns' struggles is unfair when you examine what the team as a whole has done this season on offense.
The Phoenix Suns are shooting 42.8 percent from the field over the first week and a half of the season. Only four times in the last 16 seasons have the Suns shot poorer than that over their first seven games. If that percentage were to hold up for the season, it would be a franchise worst. They are also converting just 70.52 percent of their free throws, which is fifth-worst in the NBA and is barely above the franchise-worst mark of 70.51 percent set in the expansion season of 1968-69. Yes, these Suns are actually shooting worse from the free throw line than the Shaquille O'Neal Suns teams.
The Suns were also averaging the sixth-most turnovers in the NBA going into Monday at 17.1 per game with four players averaging at least two turnovers per game. That's not all Knight's fault.
3. Knight isn't the only one having troubles
While Knight is still finding his way early in the season, he is by far the only player struggling to find his rhythm.
Monta Ellis, who joined the Indiana Pacers from Dallas this summer, was averaging just 12.4 points going into Monday — his lowest average since his rookie year. That is on top of shooting a career-low 37.6 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from behind the arc.
James Harden, last season's MVP runner-up and another playmaking shooting guard, was averaging 29.7 points over his first seven games but doing so on a career-lows of 37.7 percent from the field and 24 percent from 3. On top of that, he was averaging 5 turnovers per game for an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.14.
And for those pining for Goran Dragic or Isaiah Thomas, neither player has been shooting gangbusters to start the season, either.
So...who does deserve a pitchfork brandishing?
Well, no one. While the inconsistency shown by the Suns thus far is frustrating, seven games is just too small a sample size to accurately — or fairly — project a season for either a team or a player. It being early doesn't preclude Knight or the Suns from eventually tripping headlong into mediocrity, but it's also no guarantee.
The general rule is it takes 20 games to get a good read on things. For Phoenix, a good place to look will be Dec. 7, as the Suns finish their longest road trip of the season in Chicago against the Bulls. That will be game No. 22 for the team. If by then Knight still regularly throws ill-advised passes and Phoenix continues to languish, the villagers will be more than justified in their pitchforking ways.