In case you missed it, Kevin Knox pulled out a nifty little trick to cap off his career-high 31-point outburst last Sunday afternoon:
Did Knox break out Harden's double step-back? pic.twitter.com/YMdQzwweO3— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 13, 2019
Bah gawd! That’s James Harden’s patented double (travel) step-back’s music!
Knox has added a lot to his game since the start of the year. The most noticeable move that has in many ways unlocked his game lately is the floater in the lane — it spares Knox’s young, not-quite-developed-and-able-to-run-into-man-mountains-at-full-speed body from the rigors of charging head-first into the biggest players that the NBA has to offer.
But what if Knox were to pilfer some more moves from current NBA players? What are some maneuvers that could benefit the rook?
The Carmelo Anthony jab-step
Don’t hit the back button on your browser! Don’t you do it!
This move will either make me very popular or very hated (depending on one’s views of the extremely polarizing former Knick), but it’s unmistakable that the jab-step is one of the most effective moves in Melo’s arsenal.
That jab-step is useful for two reasons. One, it creates space to get a shot off in close quarters, and two, if deployed properly, it can fake the defender into thinking you’re headed for the hoop in the same way that a pump fake makes them think you’re getting ready to take a shot.
Getting a little space is all that Knox seems to need — per NBA.com/stats, Knox actually shoots his best percentage (45 percent) with defenders covering him “tight,” AKA from two-to-four feet away. While Knox’s shooting from the mid-range could definitely use some help (he shoots a mere 31 percent from 3 to 16 feet, per Basketball-Reference), being able to create space could help that part of his game along. Additionally, if he’s going to eventually become a go-to scorer, being able to create looks from non-analytically-friendly spots late in games will be a must, when defenses key their coverage towards defending the paint and the 3-point line at all costs.
Am I suggesting that Knox bust the jab-step out dozens of times per game, or that he use it exclusively to take mid-range shots, a la Melo? Hell no! But even the Unicorn was able to learn some of Melo’s old tricks last year and used them to devastating effect before his season-ending injury. There’s a reason why Melo was one of the more talented pure scorers in the league for a long time:
(That up-and-under certainly wouldn’t be a bad move for Knox to learn, either.)
Kevin Durant’s pull-up for three/fake pull-up to drive
Via this very nice video of some of Kevin Durant’s signature moves (and let’s be real, Knox should try to emulate as much of what Durant does as humanly possible, given their similar physical profiles), I just learned that this is called a “62 series.” Check it out:
Durant’s made that move one of the most recognizable parts of his ascension to arguably the best three-level scorer in the game today (and probably one of the best in history). He’s nailed down two crucial third games of the Finals with his pull-up 3-pointer:
So, with that Durant skill in mind, look at this sequence from Knox’s career-high 31 points this past Sunday:
Obviously it all worked out in the end and Knox made a three. But if he had Durant’s hesi in his bag of tricks in transition, he could have just as easily shook TJ McConnell, Mike Muscala and Ben Simmons from the 3-point line — rather than briefly driving the paint and doubling back — and not had to have the little hot potato exchange with Luke Kornet. In that situation, if you can get it done yourself, why not do that and avoid the turnover risk of the drive and two passes?
The hesi also would give Knox the opportunity to drive the lane if the defender sells out too hard on defending the 3-pointer, making his journey to the bucket that much easier.
Obviously this all hinges on Knox becoming a consistent plus 3-point shooter as well, but he’s shown a lot of growth in that area as the season has gone on — after shooting 30 percent from three in November, Knox has shot a respectable 37 percent from deep from December to present. And per NBA/stats, he’s shot a blistering 46.2 percent on pull-up threes in that span.
(Speaking of Durant, he shot under 30 percent from behind the arc his rookie season — so maybe Knox is already ahead of the curve!)
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Eurostep
Watching Kevin Knox drive to the hoop is both amazing and painful at times, depending on how he approaches it. I’ll let P&T emeritus Seth Rosenthal sum it up:
Pretty cool. Knox is a lot of fun and it’s been exciting to watch him figure things out literally on the fly. His sense of space and timing and his own physical presence is so raw that you can see it evolve over a span of minutes. He’s like a big gangly puppy https://t.co/tZDyZ50CUR— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) January 3, 2019
I’d personally liken him more to a newborn giraffe, but hey, that’s just my animal simile.
There are so many times where you watch Knox get into the lane, only to end up throwing up a floater:
And, look: A) There’s nothing wrong with Knox being kind of afraid of contact — he’s young, and his body is still very much developing; and B) That floater has been a large part of what has led to his recent spurt of fantastic play. However, wouldn’t it be nice if he could do something more like this?
If Knox had a move that he was confident could save him from a drubbing at the hands of the opposing team’s big man, I bet he’d be more willing to charge full-steam into the D more than his current style, where he tends to probe more often than not. When he does get to the hoop, the results haven’t been all that pretty — per Basketball-Reference, Knox is shooting a paltry 41.6 percent on layups, which is... not great.
A good Eurostep could certainly help with that, using a hard cut (and sometimes the basket itself) to create some distance from rim protectors when driving to the bucket. Giannis is one of the best in the game at that move, and another player that Knox should study and try to learn from. (Spoiler: he already is.)
If Knox’s current learning curve is a projection of the future, I’m fairly certain he’ll have all of these moves and more in the rotation soon enough.