Kevin Knox’s NBA career isn’t off to the start he would like. Three seasons in the pros only diminished his playing time, with few visible improvements to provide optimism.
Still, he just turned 22 years old, can shoot the three, and is bound to get another chance due to his fit and the inevitability of injuries. Will this season be his first step towards redemption, or his last on the Knicks, and maybe in the league?
First, some background. What little we’ve seen of Knox lately may make Knicks fans forgetful of his productive moments.
In his rookie year, Knox played in 75 games and started most of them, averaging just under 30 minutes a night. That’s a lot to throw at a raw 19-year-old, and his efficiency proved as much. Knox only shot 37 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from two-point range, and struggled defensively.
On the positive side, Knox hit 34.3 percent of his threes on five attempts a game, including over 41.7 percent from the right corner. He showed off glimpses of explosive finishes, smart passing and soft floaters, even putting up 11 20-point performances on the year.
Expectations were cautiously optimistic entering Knox’s sophomore year, but he failed to reach them. Despite marginal improvements to his defense and shot selection, Knox’s deep shooting fell off a cliff. and with it much of his playing time and confidence. Even a midseason coaching change didn’t right the ship.
Entering year three, Knox impressed enough to have an immediate role off the bench, averaging over 20 minutes in his first 14 games, shooting a whopping 44.2 percent from three. It was a promising display for Knicks fans, eagerly awaiting the day Knox would emerge as a legitimate NBA contributor.
Unfortunately, these good times didn’t last, as veterans returned from injury while Knox hit a short shooting slump, resulting in his playing time once again vanishing. After playing 20+ minutes in six of his first 14 games, he spent the rest of the season juggling DNP-CD’s and garbage time minutes.
We’re now in year four of the Knox experiment after the Knicks took him ninth in the 2018 NBA Draft. The names who went after him are haunting: Mikal Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Miles Bridges, Michael Porter Jr. and a host of reliable guys later in the first round.
However, the past is the past, and with Knox’s rookie deal expiring this summer, he’s facing a season that can entirely determine his basketball future. Luckily for him, despite the Knicks’ winning ways and new additions, he can still fight for a role.
Currently, the Knicks only employ two traditional “forwards” in Julius Randle and Obi Toppin. Their remaining bigs will play the five while RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier and Alec Burks will find themselves sliding down to the three and four spots for stretches.
There is a void to be filled for a bigger wing who can naturally play both forward positions. While Knox hasn’t proved himself reliable, if he takes a step this season, he could be a viable weapon off the bench.
Shooters are always necessary in this league, and if anything New York should be able to get a 40 percent clip out of Knox. He’s no longer unplayable defensively, and having a full season plus an offseason under Tom Thibodeau and his staff should mean improvement beyond that.
He’s also now the longest-tenured Knick on the roster, spending three years gaining chemistry with many of his current teammates.
All this can mean nothing in a month if Knox doesn’t show major strides. If that’s the case, the Knicks can let him walk as they did with Frank Ntilikina this summer.
Another option is a trade, sending him off to a less competitive team looking to buy low on a lottery talent. This way he might earn some playing time and thus a tryout for an extension or new team.
Given the manner of Ntilikina’s exit, it’s hard to imagine the Knicks finding a deal for Knox. If they do, it’s likely to come in the form of a second round pick or similarly struggling player.
However this season plays out, it’s the most important of Knox’s career.
Source: Yahoo Sports