It’s never easy being a first-round pick...but when you’re made a top-ten pick by the New York Knicks, with their rabid fanbase and lengthy history of failure? Well, consider that as tough of a situation as one could enter. Kevin Knox was selected at No. 9 overall in last year’s NBA Draft and there was instantly a lot of hope for what the previously 18-year-old prospect could do in New York.
Coming out of the University of Kentucky, Knox was praised for his physical attributes, athleticism, and evident potential. While he isn’t the most emotional or dominant player on the floor, Knox normally finds a way to be seen because of his penchant for scoring. And it’s something which occurred quite a bit during his rookie season with the Knicks.
2018-19 Stats: 12.8 PPG (37.0 FG% / 34.3 3P% / 71%), 4.5 RPG. 8.7 PER.
While Knox’s shooting percentages didn’t improve as much throughout the season and he struggled mightily during the first six weeks of his playing career, there was a spike in his scoring production beginning in December, as he averaged 17.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game during that month en route to winning Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors. The Kentucky product also crossed the 20-point mark 11 times. But the positives rarely outweighed the negatives during 2018-19.
If Knox wants to reach another level of offensive success, his efficiency must improve. Knox ranked fairly low among all qualified rookies in categories such as PER (2nd-worst) and true shooting percentage (2nd-worst), yet had the 7th-highest usage rate. And when looking at his defense, Knox’s potential to improve rarely showed itself. When paired against every small forward across the league, Knox ranked last in DRPM (Defensive Real Plus-Minus) with -4.42 and second to last in defensive rating (114.7) on his own team. Going by win shares, Knox (-1.3 WS) had the worst season of any rookie in franchise history.
Knox will likely play in this year’s Summer League. But other than those precious few live game opportunities in Vegas, Knox must really lock in this summer and expand his all-around game. If possible, Knox needs to become a more reliable scorer who can finish at the rim and reliably hit the three-ball.
If he’s able to improve his decent three-point shooting from last season (he shot 34% from downtown), that can be huge considering potentially huge changes in personnel and playing style this summer. Those rebounding and assist numbers could also use a boost — Knox will never be an elite playmaker, but he has to learn when to pass up a bad shot and move the rock. And he just has to improve in pretty much every facet on defense, from effort to physicality.
It would be bad for Knox to not become a good fit on a new and (hopefully) improved Knicks team, whether as a starter or on the bench.