Despite the rough shooting percentage (he's 3-for-13 from 3-point range), Knox has been efficient because he's driving to the basket and has a knack to draw fouls. He's 12 of 16 from the line — shooting eight free throws in each game. He's also ...and more »
LAS VEGAS — “When is Kevin Knox going into the Hall of Fame?’’ one NBA scout asked a New York reporter Monday at Thomas & Mack Center.
The talent evaluator was jesting, but it’s evidence of the buzz created among NBA cognoscenti by the 6-foot-9 Knicks lottery-pick forward at the Las Vegas summer league after just two outings.
The 18-year-old out of Kentucky is averaging 20.5 points, though he’s shooting just 37 percent. But it’s the way he is doing it that has wowed Vegas. His rim-rattling tomahawk dunks in the open court haven’t hurt.
“It’s a matter of development — it’s about when it happens,’’ an NBA assistant coach said of Knox rising into an All-Star caliber player. “But it’s going to happen. I don’t see any red flags. He’s a great, great prospect.’’
Indeed, the optimism over the Knicks’ No. 9 pick is abundant. Ex-Knicks point guard Jose Calderon, who just signed with Pistons, gave his unsolicited praise of Knox. Calderon said he was shocked Knox is 18, the second-youngest player drafted.
“He looks so comfortable already,’’ Calderon told The Post. “He’s shooting and driving to the basket and has that good size to be really good in the league.’’
Despite the rough shooting percentage (he’s 3-for-13 from 3-point range), Knox has been efficient because he’s driving to the basket and has a knack to draw fouls. He’s 12 of 16 from the line — shooting eight free throws in each game. He’s also averaging 6.5 rebounds.
“I think Kevin has great size, can shoot over people,’’ one NBA GM said. “He’s a very good shooter and has more ball skills than people thought. He scores in a variety of ways. I like his offensive game a lot. He’s the type of guy who can be one of the best offensive players in the draft.’’
One NBA college scout noted Knox looks different as he’s going to the rack more than in college.
“He’s taking that progression — you saw in Kentucky he can dribble and shoot and has the physical tools for today’s game,” the scout said, “but you see it more. The Knicks got themselves an excellent player.’’
At Kentucky, Knox had his ups and downs, especially defensively. He also was charged with lacking energy in some games. But one NBA personnel director said he sees a joy in Knox at summer league that perhaps was missing occasionally at Kentucky.
“I’ve always liked his length and athleticism, but he also likes to play,’’ an NBA personnel director said. “That’s a big thing to me. He likes to play the game. One thing that stood out when I studied him in college to now is I think he’s grown an inch. He’s gotten bigger. That’s scary.”
The Knicks are still listing Knox at 6-9, though David Fizdale has visions of playing him at power forward. At summer league, that is where he has started the game. Fizdale has even mentioned spotting him at shooting guard in a jumbo lineup.
“He’s going to be like the new 3-4,’’ the assistant coach said. “He can play multiple positions. He can shoot, handle and I know Fiz is going to get him in shape and he’ll grow with the player development program he’ll put in place. He’s going to be very good.”
When the draft process started, Knox was slated as a late lottery pick, but when it was over, he had zoomed past the more established forwards, Mikal and Miles Bridges. The Knicks determined he was not going to be the project some branded him.
“It depends on the GM — some value potential three, four years down the line, what is he going to be?’’ a personnel director said. “Some GMs value how much they can help you now or have they spent three years in college under a good coach. Everyone has his own ideals. With a guy like Knox, he could’ve been higher if someone projected him to become really good faster than two, three years away.’’
Nobody seemed to have much worry over his slight build — take a look at Kevin Durant — or his defensive shortcomings at Kentucky. Knox is listed at 215 pounds.
“Nah, he’s got great size,” the GM said. “The defense will come. Most players you have to learn to play defense in this league. His offensive skills are tough to teach and he’s got them.”
“It’s another positive for me,’’ the GM added of Knox being 18. “Everybody slots these kids and he was a late lottery guy and he moved up and he should have.’’
Several interviewed said playing at Kentucky can sometimes mask someone’s full ability because of a program overstocked and ridden by roster turnover.
“Coach [John] Calipari has a tough job melding all those guys to playing on the same page,’’ an NBA scout said. “They’re all brand new and don’t know each other.’’
So what prevented Knox from being a Top 5 pick?
“Teams fell in love with the size at the top of the draft — so many skilled big guys and you hate to miss on a big guy,’’ the personnel director said. “Plus, he was so young.’’
Knox told The Post’s Steve Serby his aim is to compete for Rookie of the Year.
“Don’t get caught up in the number,’’ the assistant coach said. “Not after Donovan Mitchell. You don’t know how this draft will play out. There’s so many young players in it. It’s worth ethic, development. He’s in a great place with skills that can grow. And Fiz offensively will maximize how to use him.’’
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