GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- In drafting freshman wing Kevin Knox with the No. 9 pick in the NBA Draft, Knicks' brass fell in love with his talent, upside, and Kentucky pedigree.
The Knicks could have selected Villanova's Mikal Bridges or Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. -- who some fans cheered for, booing Knox in the process. But, instead, they zeroed in on the 18-year-old Knox to fill their void on the wing. The Tampa, Fla., native will be officially introduced at the Knicks' facility on Friday.
"Kevin is a young man that we did extensive research on, we like the talent," Knicks GM Scott Perry said. "He fits what we're going to be about. What we've talked about from the very beginning, he's long, he's athletic, he can play multiple positions. I think he has tremendous upside."
Knox is the second-youngest player in the Draft (Jaren Jackson Jr.), and thus the Knicks are banking on his upside as opposed to an older player like the 21-year-old Bridges. He averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game for John Calipari's Wildcats.
The Knicks seemed especially impressed with how Calipari grooms and prepares players for the NBA. Entering Thursday, Calipari had put 23 first-round picks in the NBA since 2010. Calipari boasted that his 30-plus NBA players had contracts worth $1.5 billion.
"You can tell that there's still a lot of growth left in his game," Perry said of Mills. "But the younger guys now they're growing faster in front of our eyes. They're put in situations at a younger age than players used to be. He got thrown right in the fire at a program like Kentucky that is on the collegiate level probably mirrors NBA basketball in terms of the pressures that come with playing there and pressures to produce there."
Knicks President Steve Mills said they spoke to Calipari "a lot" to get a feel on Knox, whom Calipari says could turn out to be similar to Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum.
"We spoke to Cal a lot," Mills said. "Scott and I probably had two or three different conversations about all of his players actually. But we obviously spent a lot of time talking about Knox as well. We talked a lot to him."
Calipari Tweeted out a video with high praise of Knox.
"He's a tough kid, he's 18 years old," he said. "Unbelievably skilled. The game of basketball, position-less, 6-10, inside, guards multiple positions, can switch pick-and-roll.
"And you know what, you haven't even seen how good he's going to be. He hasn't scratched the surface, he's going to be phenomenal."
The Knicks were impressed with Knox's group workout earlier this month when he went up against Michigan State's Miles Bridges and others.
"When he came in and worked out with the six guys, we don't necessarily put too much credence at what happens on the court with workouts, but spending time with him made us feel really good about him," Mills said. "He's athletic, he's young, he's going to become a good defensive player. He's just a really long athletic young player that made us really excited. And the fact that he wanted to come in and compete with five other guys during the workout, that said something about how he felt about himself as a player, where want thought he could grow as a player."
It remains unclear if Knox will start right away on the wing, but with Kristaps Porzingis (ACL) injured, there won't be high expectations for the Knicks to start well in 2018-19.
In fact, they could be headed back to the lottery in 2019.
"It's hard to tell what his contribution level will be right away," Mills said. "I have a lot of respect for many, many college programs but I know the guys that go to Kentucky do get thrown into the fire right from the beginning. When you start with their pro day it's different than a lot of other pro days. The expectations on the players that go there are very high so I think it equips a guy to be ready and gives them the best possible opportunity to participate and play right away."
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