Kevin Knox became the first Knicks rookie since Patrick Ewing to post at least 15 points in six consecutive games when he scored 21 points in the Knicks loss to Philadelphia.
As much as Knicks fans talk about Frank Ntilikina’s confidence (or lack thereof), it is something everyone has been tracking with Kevin Knox, too. The 19-year-old has a challenging set of expectations to manage in basketball’s biggest market. The lottery pick had a breakout Summer League, followed by an early season injury and slow shooting start that had some doubting his game.
As crazy as it sounds, it might take more than a few weeks for a teenager to get acclimated to the NBA, and we are starting to see Knox do that now. Over his last 10 games, he is averaging 17.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on 41.4% shooting. He is shooting 43.6%, including 41.2% form three over his last five games.
His offensive repertoire came together in his performance against the Sixers. He was knocking down threes, scoring in transition, and driving, both left and right, to the hoop.
We are seeing a more confident Kevin Knox that can be measured through his scoring numbers, but if you watch how he is racking up those points, you can see he is starting to learn how he can score in an NBA offense.
Last night didn’t exactly start like it would be an efficient shooting night for Knox. He was blocked on his first two attempts, but I liked what I saw on his very first shot.
Knowing where to be on the floor to look for your shot is an under-appreciated skill that comes natural to NBA players who have been in the league for a while. It’s something that every basketball player knows how to do in a comfortable environment – I know the spot on my driveway where nobody can stop me. But translating what was once comfortable in high school or college to the professional setting, where the offense is different, defenses are more complex, and defenders are quicker and longer, is not an easy task.
It’s why it’s no coincidence that Knox is making more shots as he is becoming more comfortable at finding his place to shoot in the Knicks offense.
While Ben Simmons made a great recovery to block the shot above, in a somewhat broken play, I like how Knox read the situation and maintained his position in the corner to get the “open” look until the super tall Australian came out of nowhere.
Below is another example of Knox finding the right spot on the floor to shoot. Mudiay draws the double in the post, keeps his dribble, and patiently waits for a Knick to get open. Watch how Knox starts in the corner and rotates up to create a passing lane for Mudiay. This subtle movement is the difference between getting an open look and Mudiay never seeing him.
Here’s another example that didn’t turn into points, but I almost like these plays more because they show how Knox is doing the right things beyond what is shown on the score sheet.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. The dunk attempt was sick. But look at the cut before he gets the ball. This is what makes the entire highlight attempt possible.
As promising as it is to see Knox finding scoring options without the ball, we saw him do what he does best with the basketball last night, too.
Fizdale likes it when his wings move the ball in transition, and that’s why Kevin Knox’s rebounding becomes so important. When he gets the ball off a miss, he finds better shots.
In fact, Knox connects on 41.4% of his two-point attempts on possessions following an opponent miss, versus only 28.6% on possessions after an opponent make, per PBP Stats.
As we see in the example above, and common sense will tell us, it is easier to score in transition when defensive match-ups aren’t always clear and the spacing is already set for an athletic player like Knox to make a play to the rim. Knox finds the rim on 29.9% of his shot attempts after an opponent miss, versus only 17.9% after an opponent make.
When the Kentucky product is running the floor in transition, points are going to come.
As I said earlier, what impressed me most about Knox’s performance against Philly was the range of ways in which he scored. He made threes, he scored in transition, and he did what we saw him do in Summer League, and that is, drive to the hoop out of half-court sets.
We know he can drive right and the caveat that always comes with that is whether he can do the same thing going left. The play below is a promising sign of his progression driving left, where his handle is often too high and prone to turnover. Notice how he is forced to gather the basketball on the swipe, but still keeps his composure, drop steps, and converts on the little floater.
While nobody should have overreacted to Knox’s slow start to his rookie campaign, it’s important not to overreact the other way: just because he has played well for a stretch of games doesn’t mean he is going to be the next great Knick.
So this is where incremental development comes in. The Knicks are losing a lot of games, but we can watch to see how the young players are developing in different aspects of their game. And we are seeing promising signs in Knox, from learning where to locate his shots, to taking advantage of transition opportunities, to improving his ability to drive in both directions to the hoop.