They booed, they yelled, they cursed. The New York Knicks made a lottery pick for the third consecutive season and fans inside the Barclays Center—as they did all three years—reacted terribly to their selection.
With crowd favorites like Michael Porter Jr. (who missed almost all of last season after undergoing back surgery) and Mikal Bridges remaining on the 2018 NBA Draft board, the Knicks decided to draft Kentucky’s Kevin Knox with the No. 9 overall pick and the fans didn’t like it. But, who do they like? They booed the selection of Kristaps Porzingis in 2015, and Frank Ntilikina the year after. Porzingis became an All-Star in his third season, and Ntilikina made strides in his rookie season and is on the rise as one of the league’s best defensive wing players.
Knox, 18, is a high-scoring, high-potential small forward who will fit into New York’s forward needs after trading Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City last summer. Knox, who is the second youngest player in the 2018 NBA Draft, will become a part of New York’s youth movement alongside Porzingis, Ntilikina, and No. 36 overall pick Mitchell Robinson.
In the 2018 NBA Summer League, Knox showed off in front of the doubters averaging 21.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists over four games for the New York Knicks and was named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team. Sure, it’s Summer League and the competition isn’t nearly as high as what he’ll go against on a daily basis, but Knox showed a scorer’s mentality and gave one of the most entertaining Knicks Summer League performances in years. The 18-year-old also threw down some big-time dunks which made a splash in the NBA world.
Prior to Summer League, at a news conference at the Knicks’ training center, new head coach David Fizdale said he would have no problem starting Knox or second-year guard Frank Ntilikina if he thought they were ready.
“I have no problem playing him, starting him, whatever winds up coming out of it,” Fizdale said of Knox. “I wouldn’t have had a problem doing that with Frank. These guys got to swim now. Some of that means there’s going to be some bumps, but you learn faster by going through it. I feel very confident throwing these young guys out there and letting them go through the highs and lows of the league.”
Though just 18-years-old, Knox played for one of the best schools in the country in Kentucky and is used to playing on the big stage. Similar to how the Boston Celtics trusted rookie Jayson Tatum to step up in place of injured star Gordon Hayward and start in 2017-18, Knox can do just that for New York and produce and hone his craft as the year goes on. At 6-foot-9, Knox has multiple tools he’ll bring to New York. He is a freakish athlete who has the wingspan (6-foot-11) and quickness to guard multiple positions, an ability to be a three-point threat as well as a terror when driving to the rim, and is a strong rebounder. Knox also has the skill to work in the post and use post moves to score the ball. As there are for every rookie, there’s still room to improve. Knox has been rumored to be a bit inconsistent with his effort on the defensive end and has a shaky perception of shot selection and decision making.
Head coach David Fizdale is a player’s coach; his bread and butter are creating strong relationships with his players and getting the most out of their potential. Knox draws inspiration from Kevin Durant, and his play style even emulates the two-time NBA champion. If Fizdale can bring out the inner Durant inside of Knox as he matures as a player, New York may have found the league’s next gem.
From his draft workout, Fizdale and Knicks front office was already enticed with Knox.
“He really responded well to the physicality,” said Fizdale. “That was I would say our best workout out of all the workouts we had. You’re talking about physical, guys hitting the floor. There were possessions where a guy turns the ball over, chases the other guy down, block a dunk at the rim. No one was giving an inch in that workout. The fact that he shined in that workout says a lot about him.”
Kevin Knox on the phone with David Fizdale, Scott Perry, and Steve Mills minutes upon being drafted 🔸🔹 pic.twitter.com/4V44vvbLGS
— New Era Knicks (@NewEraKnicks) June 22, 2018
Kevin Knox didn’t want to go through a workout where there’d be no live play and he couldn’t show off his true potential. The Kentucky product requested a group workout where he was able to “go at people” and impress team personnel.
“You see a lot of top guys in the top-10 lottery do solo workouts but I decided, in the beginning, I want to do group workouts,” Knox said Friday. “I wanted to compete. I wanted to go at people. I wanted to show people what I’ve really been working on. That’s the mentality I had going into summer, to try and do group workouts, to do 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 and stuff like that.”
In his lone freshman season at Kentucky, Knox led the Wildcats in scoring averaging 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game in 37 games played. Knox was named to the All-Rookie and First Team All-SEC. The Wildcats won the SEC tournament with Knox totaling 18 points and 7 rebounds in the final game against Tenessee.
The potential is there for Knox to one day become a 20-point scorer in this league. At 18-years-old, it can’t be stressed enough of how much time Knox has to become something great. Like it or not, New York played their cards correctly in the 2018 NBA Draft with Knox and Mitchell Robinson and are in the process of piecing together a team that can become a powerhouse in years to come.
The road hasn’t been a smooth one for the Knicks, but with Kevin Knox joining the likes of Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina, winning seems to be on its way. If he can bring what he brought to the 2018 NBA Summer League during the regular season, Knicks fans are in for a treat.
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