I really feel bad about Brandon Knight's injury and wish him a full and speedy recovery. But what has happened has happened and I want to set aside those feelings for a while and try to take an objective look at how this will affect the Suns' plans for the upcoming season.
First, it simplifies things for both the front office and the coaching staff. With a torn ACL and almost $44 mil owed to Knight over the next three seasons the FO will have to shelve any plans to try and trade Knight in the near future. No one is going to be willing to take on his contract this season unless the Suns were willing to throw in enough assets to derail #TheTimeline and pretty much restart the rebuild from scratch.
The Suns are presently under the NBA salary cap floor so they can easily eat the cost his contract this year. Waiving him and using the stretch provision on his remaining salary wasn't a realistic option before his injury and it still isn't. If they do that they will be paying him approximately $6.3 mil per year through the 2023-24 season. Much better to take a bigger cap hit now than to stretch it out into the future when the Suns are hoping to return to contention and that $6.3 mil of dead cap space might actually hurt them.
As for the coaching staff, they no longer have to worry about where Knight fits (or doesn't fit) into the rotation this season. The idea of again trying to use Knight as the Suns' sixth man to try and rebuild some of his trade value has to be set aside for now leaving the Suns with only the decision of how to divide the bench minutes between Tyler Ulis, Davon Reed and Mikes James. Elijah Millsap will probably be released before the season starts (his contract isn't guaranteed) and I doubt that Derrick Jones Jr will see many minutes at SG this season unless Reed somehow doesn't turn out to be the solid 3 and D role player that I expect him to be.
I don't want to sound callous but, when you take an objective look at the entire situation, Knight's injury removes a potential short-term road block to #TheTimeline by opening up more court time for the development and evaluation of other players. It also removes a potential locker room problem as his injury insures that Knight can’t become disgruntled with not starting or not getting enough court time this season.
The flip side of that coin is that it leaves some questions unanswered. Would Knight have bounced back this season, accepted the sixth man role and made a significant contribution to the team this season or at least rebuilt enough of his trade value that the Suns could have traded him?
I know that a lot of Suns fans have completely given up on him but I'm not one of them. If you were to ask me if I thought that the answer to those questions would have been "yes" I would have to truthfully answer that I thought it could have been possible although I wouldn’t have bet on it (unless you gave me really good odds). At the moment it’s my opinion that Knight's career path looks to be similar to that of another point guard named Brandon, Brandon Jennings.
Knight and Jennings are similar players, both score first point guards that aren't good defenders. Both were starters early in their careers but seemed to plateau early and made no further progress. At one point the teams that drafted each of them (Milwaukee and Detroit) traded the two players for each other, a move that most analysts thought neither helped (nor hurt) either team. Both have a history of injuries now including torn ACLs. Both were eventually moved into bench roles.
Jennings is now a free agent looking for a new contract which could likely be at the vets minimum.
(UPDATE: According to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears Jennings has accepted a one-year, $1.5 million deal to play for China Shanxi.)
Is that Knight's future?
Maybe, maybe not. Nothing is written in stone but one thing is certain.
We Suns fans will probably have to wait until the 2018-19 season before we can get even a clue to any of the answers to the questions that surround Brandon Knight.