Though they may try to skip steps to playoff contention, the New York Knicks are in the developmental stage. One of the key players in New York's rebuild is forward Kevin Knox.
In his second year in the league, Knox's growth and development as a player has stalled. With one more season before he's up for a rookie extension and two more seasons before he would become a free agent, it's important for the Knicks to crystallize what Knox's role and future would be in New York.
It feels like a decade ago that Knox was being christened New York's latest savior after a splashy Summer League showing in 2018. While he piled up the points, Knox shot 35.1 percent from the field. That would be a hint at what Knox would really contribute in the NBA. The 6-foot-9 forward has yet to shoot at least 40 percent from the field in either of his two pro seasons in the NBA.
Knox's stats have taken a nosedive because he's played in 11 less minutes per game this season. Throughout his sophomore season, Knox has found himself on the backburner of New York's priorities. He was first stuck behind Marcus Morris. When Morris was dealt at the trade deadline to the Los Angeles Clippers for Maurice Harkless, Harkless assumed some of Morris' role. New York's bevy of big men also prevented Knox from getting a shot at the power forward position.
The frustration around Knox's development, or lack thereof, from the Knicks' fan base is palpable.
Highlighted as a possible secondary scorer to complement Kristaps Porzingis, Knox hasn't sniffed any of the modest expectations that have come his way. Selected ninth overall in the draft, Knox had the physical talents that the modern NBA salivates over. He has a 6'11.5" wingspan and an 8'10" standing reach. Knox is athletic with a fluid-looking jump shot, and the versatility to man both forward positions.
Offensively, Knox has shifted to better shot-selection compared to his rookie season. He's taking fewer long twos and mid-range shots, and he's increased his shots from behind the three-point line. Knox hasn't shot the ball from three well enough, though. Nearly 50 percent of his shots are from three, but he's shooting just 32.7 percent.
Knox has displayed modest improvements at best. Defensively, he's been more active and up for the challenge to defend players one-on-one. He's blocked more shots per minute this season. Still, Knox is prone to lose focus and get beaten off the ball.
The Knicks are plus 1.5 points per 100 possessions with Knox on the bench rather than when he is on the floor. A major factor in Knox's stunted growth is the lack of versatility in New York's roster. This season, he's played just 19 percent of his minutes at the power forward position, according to Basketball Reference.
As a perimeter player, Knox looks limited, but a shift to the four might allow him to match up with slower opponents and get to the rim at a higher rate. Though there are problems with that on the defensive end and in rebounding, the Knicks have to explore every avenue to see if Knox is worth keeping around. Playing shooting guard is definitely not one of those avenues.
Knox's college coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, recently said that the Knicks shouldn't give up on Knox too soon. There's truth to that. Knox is just 21 years old. There is time for him to figure it out and become a much more reliable and consistent player with a meaningful impact on winning. First, the Knicks have to get their act together as a franchise.
Though the Knicks seem to value Knox on the trade market, they haven't valued him on the court. Sitting Knox in favor of a 26-year-old upcoming free agent in Harkless is perplexing. Knox shouldn't be gifted minutes automatically, but the Knicks need to prioritize evaluating his play to figure out if he is a part of the team's future core with RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson.