What NBA insiders say about Kevin Knox’s messy Knicks future
Part 8 of a series analyzing the New York Knicks:
David Fizdale and his interim replacement Mike Miller each thought Kevin Knox had a tendency to play “soft’’, according to an NBA source.
Hence, neither Knicks coach gave Knox the runway this season that he had his rookie year.
Knox’s reduced playing time (17.9 minutes per game) led the 2018 lottery pick into a sophomore-jinxed campaign in which he averaged an embarrassingly low 6.4 points on 35.9 percent shooting.
It’s a shame Miller may have run out of time to give Knox a larger stage as the season was suspended indefinitely on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Miller wouldn’t start Knox even after small forward Marcus Morris was dealt Feb. 6. According to a source, Miller was still under order to go about the business of winning games — and the interim didn’t feel Knox gave him the best chance.
While the coaches were happy with Knox’s improved defense this month, it doesn’t overshadow that the 6-foot-8 sniper from Kentucky looked fragile on offense despite his potential as an electric scorer/slasher.
The opinions on Knox range from the optimistic to the apocalyptic. Seth Greenberg, the former Virginia Tech coach and current ESPN basketball maven, told The Post recently:
“I like Knox. I wouldn’t give up on Knox. He could be a nice player.’’
GM Scott Perry and his staff scouted Kentucky extensively during the 2017-18 season and took the freshman small forward over the freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who enjoyed a breakout season in Oklahoma City.
“I was surprised they ignored the kid Gilgeous-Alexander because I thought he was Kentucky’s best player with the biggest upside,’’ said one NBA college scout. “Knox doesn’t look like a very good player now — not a defender, not creative enough on offense and his feet are bad. Think about their backcourt. It could be Donovan Mitchell [passed over in 2017] and Alexander. The league knows what Kevin does and they have taken it away. He doesn’t look quick enough to get by guys. He isn’t tough enough to post up smaller guys and isn’t a playmaker for others.”
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In defense of the Knicks, Gilgeous-Alexander declined to work out for any team except the Clippers. In addition, that draft the Knicks were all in on selecting a small forward to fill their greatest need.
One shred of good news with Knox, 20, is he’s still the 23rd-youngest player in the NBA despite all but finishing his second campaign. That youth was Kentucky coach John Calipari’s main point this past week when he lobbied his longtime associate, new Knicks president Leon Rose, to not trade Knox. Calipari has Rose’s ear.
“We are far from knowing what Kevin will be,’’ said one NBA executive familiar with the Knicks’ thinking. “All your young guys develop at different states. And normally the ninth pick in the draft is more of a rotational player than an All-Star.’’
Knicks brass is also encouraged because it considers Knox arguably the team’s hardest worker. Pre-shutdown, Knox would come to the Tarrytown campus at night to get extra shots up.
Knox, who is back in his hometown of Tampa, Fla., repeatedly said he wasn’t alarmed because his focus is more on improving on defense, where he showed a low motor and poor instincts. His defensive progress is seen in the numbers.
Knox defended guards and forwards an equal amount of time. Guards shot just 41.8 percent against Knox, forwards were at 46.5 percent. Last season, guards shot 44.7 percent, forwards 48.4.
In six March games, Knox blocked six shots and grabbed three steals. In January and February combined, he had just six blocks and two steals in 27 games. The Knicks coaches felt it was the start of him turning the defensive corner.
Now Knox has got to get back that mojo on offense or that fourth-year team option for 2021-22 ($5.8 million) may be no sure thing.
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