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.

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Schmeelk: Knicks Summer League Recap

Knox, Robinson Show Plenty Of Promise

John Schmeelk
July 16, 2018 - 2:12 pm
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The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas ends Tuesday, but the Knicks finished their run in Sin City on Friday with a win. Their 2-3 summer record doesn’t really matter, but the progress of some of the young players does. It is hard to be anything but thrilled with the early returns on the Knicks' draft class.

Kevin Knox, SF

This year's first-round draft pick finished fourth in the league in scoring at 21.3 points per game, while shooting only 35 percent from the field. The numbers, however, are not important. It’s all the circumstances around those numbers that matter the most.  

It is common for players with no NBA future to put up big numbers in Las Vegas, but they are often older with a lot of experience either overseas or in the developmental league. For a player who is just 18 years old to put up those types of numbers is a much more significant positive sign for his future in the NBA.

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How he put up those points is also vital in his evaluation. At Kentucky, Knox showed he could shoot off screens, off the dribble, on kick-outs and finishing on the break. His weaknesses on offense were his ballhandling, playmaking and ability to drive all the way to the hoop off of isolations and pick-and-roll opportunities.

To be a special offensive player in the NBA, you have to be able to do those things, and Knox did them all in Vegas. It will still take some time for him to come into his own, but there is certainly more optimism for the Knicks today than there was the night he was drafted.

Knox wasn’t perfect. He didn’t shoot well, something that should come given his stroke. There were times he struggled finishing in the paint, especially when going left. He also looked a little lost on defense from time to time, something very common for players his age.

Mitchell Robinson, C

Perhaps just as big of a bright spot was the Knicks' second-round pick, Robinson. Despite having extremely low expectations because he never played college ball and hadn’t played in any competitive five on five games in a year, Robinson played as well as any other big man in Summer League.

He averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks (to lead the league) and a steal per game. His length and athleticism were obvious in rim protection and on the glass. He played within himself, operating as a finisher within 5 feet of the basket and rarely leaving that area. His 67 percent field-goal percentage showed he understands exactly what his game needs to be right now.

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Despite not having played college ball, his defensive instincts around the basket were strong as well. He showed a quick jump ability that helped him around the rim, putting back missed shots from his teammates. He has the athleticism and length to be the type of switching, rim-protecting and running big man the league craves.

Robinson, obviously, is still very raw. He reached in too much on defense, resulting in fouls. He struggled from the free-throw line. His endurance isn’t there yet. With all that said, to find a second-round player with all those tools is a steal.

Frank Ntilikina, PG

It was disappointing that Ntilikina, the Knicks' 2017 first-round pick, only played in two games before a groin injury cost him the rest of the tournament. He was far too passive in the first game but showed some glimpses of what he could be in the second with a variety of moves in which he used his frame to shoot over smaller defenders. The most important thing for Ntilikina in his second year is to improve as a shooter. As important as it is for him to have an aggressive approach, it won’t matter much if he doesn’t shoot it better. He should be shooting thousands of jumpers every day between now and the start of the year.

Allonzo Trier, SG

Already signed to a two-way contract, Trier averaged 17 points per game on 45 percent shooting to go along with just over five rebounds and three assists. Trier can score, and he showed he could connect from the outside and get to the rim. Too often, however, he held the ball far too long and forced up some shots after a lot of dribbling instead of moving the ball. He played point guard with some success after Ntilikina got hurt, but he still looks like a shooting guard to me. I wonder if he is a good enough athlete to make it in the NBA as a scorer. I expect Trier to spend most of his time in Westchester this year barring any Knicks trades.

Damyean Dotson, SG

Dotson played well in the Knicks' final Summer League game, but didn’t do nearly enough in Vegas to show he can be a regular part of the Knicks' rotation. He averaged just eight points on 36 percent shooting. He showed the ability to defend, but he needs to be a better shotmaker, ballhandler and playmaker to be a consistent contributor this year. Dotson needs to have a big preseason.

Luke Kornet, PF

Kornet played in just one game in Las Vegas and has a guaranteed contract for the Knicks this season. He’ll have a chance to compete for big-man minutes in the rotation as a 7-foot shooter and rim protector.

Isaiah Hicks, PF

Hicks, also on a two-way contract for the Knicks, played in three Summer League games, and sometimes you didn’t realize he was out there. He averaged a very quiet five points and two rebounds in 15 minutes per game. It’s unclear what his NBA skill set is and role will be. He’ll have a chance to answer those questions in training camp and preseason games.

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