Undeterred by a slow start to his debut season, New York Knicks neophyte Kevin Knox shined bright during December with averages of 17.1 points and 6 rebounds per game, and on Thursday the NBA rewarded the lanky teenager by naming him Eastern Conference rookie of the month.
After being selected 9th overall in last year’s draft and then dominating during Summer League, Knox carried lofty expectations on his shoulders heading into the start of the year; alas, growing pains, plus a sprained ankle, contributed to early season struggles. In December, however, something clicked — perhaps that ankle finally felt 100 percent — and Knox started stringing together series of strong performances. During the final month of 2018, Knox led Eastern Conference rookies in scoring and three pointers made (33), placed second in rebounding, and led all NBA rookies in minutes (34.9 per game).
Knox scored 20 or more points six different times in December, including on Christmas Day when he put up 21 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in a loss to the superior Milwaukee Bucks. When Knox had 26 points and 15 rebounds on December 9th against the Charlotte Hornets, he became just the second teenager in NBA history to post at least 25 points and 15 rebounds in a game, with the only other being LeBron James. To put that in a bit of perspective, others that played in the league as teens and are not on that list with Knox and LeBron include Anthony Davis, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard.
On December 21st against the Atlanta Hawks, Knox dazzled the Madison Square Garden crowd by dropping 17 points in the first quarter alone, scoring in a multitude of ways.
His improvement has been sudden and swift. Knox has gone from a guy who appeared overwhelmed and weirdly undersized, despite being quite tall at 6’9”, to a player bursting at the seams with confidence, regardless of whether he’s running the fastbreak, pulling up for a mid-range jumper, popping a three or slamming home an alley-oop. Our friends at TheKnicksWall recently showcased how Knox has successfully weaponized the floater.
During the first few weeks of the season, Knox’s drives seemed to often end with flails though rarely with free throws, but he has rapidly figured out how to make stronger moves to the hole. The proof is in the numbers: through the 16 games Knox played prior to the start of December, he averaged 1.9 free throws per game. In the 15 games he’s played since December began, Knox is shooting 3.5 free throws per contest.
To be quite frank, there’s really nothing Knox can’t do on offense, and the thought of pairing an even further developed version of him with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis, a rejuvenated Frank Ntilikina and a high pick in next year’s draft is enough to make a grown man cry premature tears of joy.
Our forefather Seth Rosenthal described the Knoxperience quite aptly:
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
Knox is the eighth Knickerbocker to be named rookie of the month since the NBA starting handing out the award in 1981. Most recently, Willy Hernangomez won Eastern Conference rookie of the month when he averaged 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.17 steals per game throughout April 2017. Prior to that, Porzingis was awarded the honor three consecutive months during the 2015-2016 campaign. In April 2013, Chris Copeland took home the prize, Landry Fields accomplished the feat two times in 2010, and Channing Frye claimed the title in November 2005. Rounding out the list are Mark Jackson, who earned the honor three times, and Patrick Ewing, who did it twice.
While some of the players in the paragraph above are fine role models to emulate, others never quite reached their potential while they were with the Knicks, or were gone before they had the chance. Knicks fans are hoping that Knox will be more like Porzingis or Ewing than Frye or Fields, and while there’s no way to predict the future, Knox’s impressive month of December and overall steady improvement are encouraging signs. Perhaps just as encouraging is the way Knox himself feels about the award he just received.
“It’s a good achievement, but I still got a lot of work to do,” he says at the end of this video the Knicks posted on Twitter.
Now, while we wait for the next opportunity to watch Knox play, let’s enjoy this mesmerizing compilation of highlights from his award-winning month.