Kevin Knox

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Schmeelk: Knox Looks Better Than Expected In Summer League

He's Quicker, More Agile Than He Showed In College

John Schmeelk
July 09, 2018 - 12:32 pm
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The Knicks have two NBA Summer League games in the books, and it is hard to be anything but thrilled if you’re a Knicks fan. The young players have almost all flashed in different moments, and the team’s last two first-round picks have both impressed.

Before I go through my notes, it is important to note that this is just Summer League. MVPs in Summer Leagues in years past have gone on to do nothing in the NBA. Production isn’t what viewers should be concerned with. It is whether or not these players show the tools necessary to be impactful NBA players. It is important not to take too much from what happens in Summer League, but it is still fun to speculate.

1. KEVIN KNOX

The Knicks' first-round pick has to be the headliner. Knox has looked like a different player than what he showed at Kentucky. He looks like a much quicker, more agile athlete who can handle the ball and get to the basket. It does look like he has lost some baby fat, but it doesn’t explain why Kentucky coach John Calipari would have chosen not to utilize all his skills on a Wildcats team that struggled to score. 

MORE: Schmeelk: Offseason Movement Sets Up Big Summer 2019 That Knicks Can Take Advantage Of

Whatever the reason might be, the Knicks are fortunate he did. If Knox played at Kentucky the way he has in the first two games in the Summer League, there is no way he would have gotten by the Cavaliers at pick No. 8. His ballhandling, ability to drive, toughness, rebounding and even good effort on defense must be what he showed in that private workout for the Knicks.

Knox hasn’t been perfect. His jumper has been inconsistent. While he has gotten to the free-throw line on the way to the hoop, he has struggled to separate a little bit, and he’s had a number of awkward attempts at finishing with his right hand while driving left. Those types of things will come, but the impressive base of a versatile scoring wing are there.

2. FRANK NTILIKINA

The passive Ntilikina showed up in the first Summer League game when he looked much like the same guy who played last year for the Knicks. His aggression picked up in the fourth quarter and continued into the second game Sunday night, when he finished with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting with 6 assists.

Ntilikina is never going to be the type of point guard who just blows by people with his raw athleticism. Instead, he has to use his frame, length and size to get his production. He did that well Sunday, turning drives into post-ups inside of 7 feet, where he finished over smaller defenders.

Of course, all that aggression won’t matter much unless he shoots better. He shot just 1-of-5 from behind the arc Sunday, including a couple bricks on pull-ups off the dribble. It’s going to take time for him to develop as a shot creator, much like it did for Chauncey Billups, a similar sized combo guard without elite athleticism. If Ntilikina can improve his shooting, he could become a very valuable player immediately. It looks like his handle has shown some progress, and now it’s time for the shot to come next.

3. MITCHELL ROBINSON

You can tell he hasn’t played organized basketball in a year with his lack of stamina, foul-prone tendencies on defense and limited polish. His natural physical talent, though, is undeniable. He has good timing as a shot blocker, can finish strong at the rim with his length and has even shown good touch around the rim. His size and athleticism profile him as the type of rim-running, shot-blocking center modern NBA teams crave.

The Knicks' front office should be applauded for signing Robinson to a three-year contract with a fourth-year option, giving the team long-term control over an asset that will take time to develop. It is an excellent investment in a young, talented player. No other player taken in the second round of the draft has the physical tools he does.

4. ALONZO TRIER

He is not shy. You can tell Trier knows how to score with various change-of-pace moves off the dribble and step-back jumpers. I’m just not sure he has the athleticism and explosion to create his own shot as a professional. His shot selection is poor, and he will be headed to the G League.

5. DAMYEAN DOTSON

Dotson knows what he is and so do the Knicks. He is a good defender who tries hard and can hit 3s. Other than attacking closeouts, his offensive role is limited, but he might be able to turn into a useful NBA roleplayer.

6. TROY WILLIAMS

Much like Dotson, Williams knows what he does well. He is an excellent finisher at the rim on cuts and in transition. He has hit a couple of jumpers, but his shot still looks flat to me. I’m also not sure he will ever be able to create his own shot consistently. He has defensive potential, but there are still a lot of breakdowns. He is a roleplayer with a specific skill set.

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