Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
A few weeks into Kevin Knox's rookie season, his college coach, John Calipari, said that NBA teams would have to be patient with the 6-9 forward.
"I told the Knicks and everybody recruiting (Knox) -- they're 19, 18, 20, not 25 years old. But what you have is a 6-9, 6-10 player who's multi-dimensional, who can score and is just going to get better and better when he matures and physically fills out," Calipari said.
Calipari's private message to the Knicks prior to the draft was similar: You will know what you have in Year 3.
That context is worth noting when analyzing Knox's sophomore season.
The 20-year-old's offensive numbers and minutes have decreased in Year 2, leading some to conclude that drafting Knox at No. 9 was a mistake by the Knicks.
With that in mind, we talked to a few scouts/execs to get their thoughts on Knox:
Western Conference exec: "Is he a bust? Come on now. He's still a baby. Has everything gone well for him this year? No. Does he have motor issues at times? Sure. But he has a great frame and I think his shot is fine. I think there still could be a player there."
NBA scout: "I know the numbers aren't there on offense but I like that he's not just settling for jump shots. He's attacking the basket. If he was just standing on the perimeter waiting to shoot threes, I'd be concerned. He's not doing that. I see him playing hard and I see some improvement on defense. If you just look at the box score or his stats, you'd say he's having a (bad) season. But if you watch the games, you see subtle improvement on defense, the way he's challenging more shots. Does he have a ways to go? Yes. But the arrow is still pointing up, for me. There's definitely still a player there. Way too early to call him a bust or anything like that."
Bryan Oringher, who worked as a scout for the Wizards and now runs the 'Scout With Bryan' media platform: "Even though Knox's numbers are down slightly -- I don't think he's 'regressed.' But I do think it's very concerning that he really hasn't gotten any better. He's at best plateaued. He hasn't made shots with any serious consistency, seems to really lack confidence on that end and disappears for long stretches.
"Perspective is important and if you look at him like a college junior -- he certainly still could have a long successful career ahead of him and really improve. But his motor is very concerning to me -- he just doesn't seem to understand that you can't have an off switch today and even if you're not involved on offense there's no reason you can't be everywhere you're supposed to be defensively and in a stance always. He could have a 20-year career...or the Knicks could incredibly think for a while about if they want to pick up his fourth year option. That's pretty striking and he needs to feel a sense of urgency -- or else he'll be a pretty huge bust for that draft position."
Knox has said that he isn't worried about his struggles on offense this season. He also thinks, despite the subpar offensive numbers, he's a much better player this season than he was last year.
"I definitely think I've gotten a lot better. I go out there (and) really just try to get better defensively. That's something I really tried to take on this summer, just have a better defensive approach," Knox said last week. "So that's kind of been my mindset this whole season.
"I'm not really worried about the offense, I know that's going to come, the shot's going to fall. But I really just want to lock in defensively, lock in on making those extra plays."
Knox is shooting 36 percent from the floor and 32 percent from beyond the arc (compared to 37 percent and 34 percent, respectively, as a rookie). His free-throw percentage has also taken a hit (71 percent last season, 65 percent this season).
The Florida native is playing 18 minutes per game, nearly 11 fewer than last season. With fewer minutes on the court, Knox's per-game scoring average has taken a hit (12.8 points per game as a rookie; 6.5 PPG this season).
But Knicks interim head coach Mike Miller has routinely praised Knox for making improvements on defense.
As we reported last week, the Knicks showed how much they valued Knox by their actions prior to the 2020 NBA trade deadline. Several teams in touch with the Knicks prior to ex-team president Steve Mills' reassignment came away with the impression that New York was very hesitant to deal Knox, per SNY sources.
Before Mills was let go as team president, the Knicks, per sources, had a package that they felt Golden State liked in exchange for D'Angelo Russell. It's unclear if Knox was included in that package.
But teams generally had the feeling that Knox was not going to be moved unless it was for a young star, sources say. So that gives you some indication of how the club values Knox.
Many in the organization viewed him as part of the young core, which included Mitchell Robinson and RJ Barrett, to build around moving forward, per sources.
Will that change under new president Leon Rose? Sometimes, when a new regime takes over, they aren't as protective of a previous regime's draft picks.
Rose will take the remaining six weeks of the season to evaluate all facets of the organization, including young players like Knox.