Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Kevin Knox says he isn't worried about his struggles on offense. 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 Wednesday before the Knicks' loss to Philly. "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."
Based on his box-score stats, Knox hasn't progressed much on offense this season.
He's 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, 64 percent this season).
Knox is playing 18 minutes per game, 10 fewer than last season. As you'd expect, his scoring average has taken a hit (12.8 PPG as a rookie; 6.5 points per game this season).
But Knox's shooting percentages are probably concerning to the Knicks.
On the defensive end, Knox has been praised by coaches for challenging shots more frequently, improving his post defense and making the correct rotation decisions more often than last season.
Knicks interim head coach Mike Miller sees that as evidence of Knox's development in his sophomore season.
"He's gotten better," Miller said last week.
Knox, 20, was selected ninth overall by the Knicks in the 2018 NBA Draft. He was giving plenty of room to play through mistakes in his rookie season under David Fizdale. But this year, Knox hasn't been given as much free reign. Fizdale -- and then Miller -- were quicker to pull Knox after he'd made a mistake -- particularly on defense.
It's way too early to say if this approach will help Knox in the long run, but the Knicks clearly like the results they've seen on the defensive end.
And despite his subpar numbers, Knox remains confident that his offense will be just fine, particularly his perimeter shooting.
But given the uneven results this season, it's fair to wonder how the next few years will play out for Knox in New York.
Ex-president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry selected Knox with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. 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 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.
But it's worth noting that Rose has a strong relationship with Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who, as Knox's college coach, is an advocate for the young forward.
So maybe the Knicks' coaching staff/player development staff under Rose will remain patient with Knox and look to unlock his potential.
After all, he's 6-7 with a long wingspan and has shown that he can knock down perimeter shots. Those are valuable attributes in today's NBA.
It's worth noting that Knox was also the third-youngest player in the league this season.
In a perfect world for the Knicks and their fans, young players would develop in a linear fashion. But different players develop at different rates. Some never reach their potential, for various reasons. Others take a bit longer.
Also, given Knox's age, it's worth wondering how stars like Draymond Green and CJ McCollum might have looked if they'd been in the NBA as early as Knox instead of developing with their college programs.
Does that mean that you should ignore all of Knox's mistakes on the court and have a blind faith that he'll improve? Of course not. Does that mean the Knicks should hold on to Knox at all costs? No way. It's just something to factor in as you analyze what you see from Knox in Year 2.