Knicks forward Kevin Knox (20) dribbles against the Lakers' Nick King during a Summer League game on July 10, 2018, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.


Schmeelk: The Future is Bright For Kevin Knox

John Schmeelk
December 20, 2018 - 1:20 pm

When Kevin Knox walked off the court after the Knicks final game of November, a 117-91 blowout loss at the hands of the Sixers, he was finishing a month of basketball he wanted to forget. Including a trio of games in October before his ankle injury, Knox was averaging only 7.5 points in 18 minutes per game. He was shooting an abysmal 32.5% from the field, 32.7% from behind the arc and taking fewer than two free throws per game.

Then everything began to change. In December, Knox has looked like a different player. In nine games since the first of the month, Knox is averaging 16.6 points on .407/.379/.567 shooting, huge improvements from his first 16 games. He is taking 6.4 three pointers and 3.3 free throws in his 33.2 minutes per contest.

The way Knox is scoring is very consistent with how he played at Kentucky. He is getting the majority of his shots on catch and shoot and off the dribble jump shots. The perimeter shots have started to fall consistently. Knox gets most of the rest of his points in transition, finishing on straight line drives at the basket. It’s vitally important for young players to have parts of their game to rely on, and these skills give Knox a good base to work up from.

It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Knox since being drafted by the Knicks. In his first NBA exposure during summer league, he looked like a real rookie of the year challenger. He wasn’t only shooting well and scoring in transition, but also creating off the dribble in one-on-one situations in the half court.

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When he arrived at training camp and began to play in exhibition games, Knox looked overwhelmed. Nothing was working and he looked nothing like the player he was in the Summer League. Then Knox hurt his ankle against the Celtics on October 20th, forcing him to miss seven games and further retarding his development.

When he returned to the court, his play was a mess. But to Knox’s credit he managed to bounce back and lift his game. David Fizdale also deserves credit for sticking with him and keeping his head in the right space to play better in the month of December. He has played like an All-Rookie caliber player since the start of the month.

Even with that said, Knox still has a lot he needs to work on, and it starts on the defensive end of the floor. Knox still looks lost defensively, whether in one-on-one or team situations. He is slow on rotations and doesn’t quite know when and where to help. Knox has the highest defensive rating on the team at 116.3, compared to 109.1 when he is on the bench.

Offensively, Knox has a lot of room for growth. He still settles for two many awkward floaters instead of getting all the way to the hoop. There has been improvement in this area, but there is still a ways to go. He is getting more confident finishing near the rim, even trying to throw down some monster dunks in traffic. At 6’9, Knox should develop into an elite finisher near the rim.

Knox also hasn’t figured out how to score one-on-one in half court isolation situations. This is not something rookies normally do well, especially for someone like Knox that wasn’t asked to do much of it in college. Right now he doesn’t have the array of post moves to take smaller players in the paint, nor the quickness to get around NBA small forwards. Those things will come as he develops a more well-rounded NBA game. As he gets stronger and potentially moves to power forward, his quickness will become a real weapon.

His passing is another big problem. Though it has shown minor improvement recently, Knox is still averaging less than an assist per game with an infinitesimal 5.3 assist percentage. It isn’t that he throws bad passes, he just rarely passes at all. If he gets the ball, he’s likely going to shoot it. He is not a creator yet, something else that can come with time.

All rookies are going to have things to work on, but Knox has already shown some NBA ready skills in his first two dozen NBA games. He is only 19 years old. It is a good first step for a player the Knicks hope can be a major part of their foundation and future. In a season that is all about development, the early signs are positive for Kevin Knox.

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