@FrontOfficeEye worked with the Tulsa Shock in their front office helping with analytics, contracts, and scouting (with some help given to the coaching staff, when needed). Today he helps us breakdown Kevin Knox attacking the rim.
Kevin Knox had many question marks after his time at Kentucky: motor issues, defensive ability, shot consistency, offensive awareness, inability to use length, why did his athleticism look “meh” in college, etc.
The one that really intrigued me was his reluctancy to attack the rim. In half court settings, Knox only had 66 shots around the basket vs 61 runners. For someone his size, with his length and athleticism (while not elite, is still good), those numbers scared me a bit. Why was he avoiding the rim even though he had the advantage? Digging into it the numbers a bit more, and you saw that he was in the 70th percentile on runners, but only the 62nd around the basket. Did it make sense that he was going to the runner more? No; that 70th percentile on runners was still more than .3PPP less than what his PPP was around the rim was — basically, even though the percentile rank was higher, it was still the less efficient shot. He had the size advantage attacking the rim in college, but shied away from it.
Throughout Summer League and the preseason, one of the main things I focused on with Knox was his mentality attacking the rim. Was he going for runners too often, or was he being aggressive attacking the rim looking to finish over the big or get fouled? I was in Las Vegas for Summer League, and had the opportunity to watch Knox up close. While at the games, I was also able to discuss what I saw with scouts from various teams. They all agreed he looked like a different player, one with a different mentality, and one who was taking advantage of the pace and space the NBA offered. The key stat for me during Summer League: 22 shots around basket, 5 runners. He was becoming more comfortable attacking the rim, and even though the results were not there finishing (6/22), the aggressiveness was. Fast forward to preseason: 11 shots around basket, 5 runners. Again, the results were not there finishing (1/11), but, as you’ll see below, it’s not as bad as it may seem.
I pulled all of Kevin Knox’s Synergy clips (jumpers, around the basket, and everything between), and watched them, paying close attention to his mentality while attacking the rim. He was attacking the rim well, but why was he hitting so few? I uploaded some of the clips below, and broke them down. As you will see, even though it is hard spinning a 1st percentile ranking around the basket into a positive (even for someone in the legal field), there are some good things to take from his aggressiveness.
Many people will look at the clip below and think it was a nice take, but was blocked. However, this take was more than just a nice fake to Lance in the corner getting Wall to bite and getting blocked at the rim; it was an aggressive take against a rim protector. This one simple clip goes against the perception people (including myself) had of Knox going into the season — that he was soft and would not take it hard to the paint.
- He did a nice job being assertive in attacking the rim.
- He did not often shy away from contact, although I did put one clip below showing an example with two issues.
- He has issues seeing the whole court as he’s driving, missing open teammates and forcing up inefficient shots instead.
- He often begins his drive too soon/before the help defender clears, leading him into multiple defenders or early help.
- All in all, coming off his over-reliance on the floater in college, seeing him attack the rim was a positive sign.
In the clip below, he’s simply attacking Mahinmi in transition. Showcasing some grab and go ability (after a sub-part rebounding percentage in college), aggressiveness taking the ball at the shot blocker, and the really nice baby hook off the glass.
In the clip below, off the fake, Knox attacks the rim once again. Russell comes over to help, and instead of stopping short, Knox continues to the rim for the nice finish. There isn’t any remaining help defense, but I like the aggressiveness.
Below, we see some faceup ability as he’s guarded by Diallo. Diallo, a pretty quick and energetic big, does a nice job staying in front of Knox . Knox doesn’t back down from Diallo (who admittedly is not a particularly strong big), and finishes through the contact.
As of now, Knox doesn’t have the best feel for passing out once he gets into the paint. What this leads to is some poor shot attempts in traffic with teammates standing open.
In the clip below, Vonleh levels Green in the DHO.
Mahinmi, trusting his quickness, comes up to defend Knox. As Knox drives, Mahinmi slides well and Wall has a nice dig. In the first picture where Wall is digging, Knox has Frank open in the corner, Vonleh rolling behind, and THJr spacing to corner — Knox sees none of it, and ends up forcing a shot against a rim protector in perfect position.
As he continues to get a better feel for open looks in the paint, I expect him to hit one of the open guys. Frank would have been an easy paint pass, Vonleh could have been an easy pivot and pass, and THJr could have been hit with a similar move (or on a secondary pass after Vonleh).
In the clip below, Knox again drives into traffic because he begins his drive too soon. Instead of waiting for Mahinmi to clear, he attacks too soon, leaving an easy contest and a missed opportunity on offense.
As THJr comes off the double pin down on the weak side and crosses the paint, he’s bringing Mahinmi with him. Instead of waiting for THJr to fully cross and have him clear Mahinmi from the paint, he attacks early directly at Mahinmi who was in great position. The picture below shows the position of everyone when he begins his attack.
I like the aggressiveness off of Wall’s defense, but I feel he was too eager to escape the pressure, leading to the poor shot attempt. Another option for Knox instead of the kick back to THJr, which would have been a difficult pass, would have been to draw Mahinmi up and kick it to Vonleh on the roll.
Here is a DHO PNR. Vonleh does a good job clearing Knox’s man, and rolls. Watch where he takes off in the clip, then look at the picture below.
Knox attacking the rim is generally a good thing, but when you’re jumping from this far out, the results will not be positive. Knox isn’t athletic enough, or strong enough, to start his leap from that spot and expect to finish. If he’s looking for the call, well, chances are it’s not coming yet — you’re a rookie, not a vet. He should have continued downhill and took the ball straight at Allen’s chest, like you’re supposed to do against shot blockers.
This is just a secondary drive of a kick from Mudiay. No advanced reads here, just a simple drive.
However, just like above with THJr, he doesn’t wait until the lane is cleared before he drives. I cannot justify the attack left there, because even if Mudiay is cleared, chances are Clark is sagging off Mudiay enough to help on Knox’s drive. What he should have done is gone middle.
On the off chance Knox makes it through both his defender and Mudiay’s defender, he will be met at the rim. However, if he goes middle, he opens up an easy opportunity for a drive and kick to Hezonja. The puzzling thing about this play is instead of meeting the ball by pushing off his left foot and using that forward momentum to attack Young’s outside foot going middle, he sticks off his right foot, which essentially removed his ability to attack the outside foot without an easy recovery from Young.
Here we have Knox coming off a double pindown. As Kenrich closes high, Knox immediately recognizes that there will be a potential lane to drive down — he attacks. This was great. He was assertive, knew the lane that would be open, and attacked without hesitation. However, from there, it went downhill.
Diallo is in perfect position on defense — he recognizes that Knox beat Kenrich, and gets ready to stand his ground. Diallo takes away the passing lane to Kornet, leaving one of two options for Knox: (1) attack the rim; or (2) kick it to Dotson in the corner. Knox doesn’t see Dotson, and decides to attack. However, as in clip 6, Knox jumps from too far out. Here, instead of going into the defender, he doesn’t explode and veers away from contact. I do not recall any other “soft” takes in preseason, so it’s not a major cause for concern. However, I would have liked him to go right at Diallo, instead of conceding the shot at the rim before meeting him at the peak (where Knox did not even reach).
However, the lack of vision attacking the rim is a concern, and something to keep tabs on going forward.
Knox being in the first percentile is bad no matter how you cut it. However, just because it’s a bad ranking, does not mean you cannot take positive things from it. (Starting with the bad, and ending with the good.)
(1) Driving into multiple defenders and missing passing opportunities. As he continues to get more comfortable attacking the rim and the game slows down for him, his vision SHOULD open up — he’ll know where the help is coming from (watching out for digs), and where the open man usually is on angled drives (corners). This I expect his passing in these situations to improve as he gets more reps and the game slows down for him here.
(2) Feel (this includes attacking before a lane opens up)
(3) Jumping too early, and not going into the defender’s body.
(4) There were other examples in other actions / shot attempts where Knox missed the open man, but attacking his lack of vision was not the main point of this article — it was that even though the results were not necessarily there attacking the rim, the aggression was, and that is a great sign.