The second installment of the prospect breakdown series is here, this time another wing player is looked at under the microscope. One of the Sixers biggest needs this offseason is improved depth at the forward spot, and Kevin Knox could help sure up the position. The freshman out of Kentucky had an up and down year, but the upside still remains, making him a possible fit with the tenth pick in the draft.
The Kentucky Wildcats didn’t have their usual season. Sure, they were successful enough to make it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament thanks to some upsets in their region of the bracket. But simply put, the team didn’t blow anyone away. There was no marquee star on the roster this year. They had a lot of top recruits, for sure, but no one that could separate themselves from the pack.
But by the end of the year Kevin Knox became the player the offense went through, becoming a recognizable name and a reliable scorer. When I watch Knox on the offensive side of the floor I see a player that mirrors what a younger Kevin Durant did in Oklahoma City. Now, I’m not saying that Knox will become the next Durant, but his body type along with shooting form and ball handling skills do look awfully similar to what Durant had early on in his career.
Knox is 6’9” and 215 pounds; he was often bigger than his opposition and used that to his advantage, getting to the apex of his shot quickly and shooting over the defense. The shooting form of Knox is what really made me draw the comparison to Durant. Both Knox and Durant use a two-step move to set their feet a wide distance apart and pull up with the release at the highest point possible, using the most of their height and gaining as much separation as possible.
Kevin Knox vs. West Virginia:
Kevin Durant vs. New York (2014)
Footwork, high release, bucket. Simple as that. Besides his jumper, Knox can score in other ways as well.
One of the most surprising developments of his freshman year was the ability of Knox to drive to the lane and finish through contact, using his body to make tough shots. At the next level these shots may be harder to make. But if Knox can work on gaining some more weight, much like Durant did, then that part of his game will translate to the next level as well. His stats don’t jump off of the page, but scoring 15.6 points per game proves that he is a consistent contributor. Knox will have to work more on finding his teammates for baskets, as he only averaged 1.4 assists per game in his single season at Kentucky. However, when he puts the ball on the ground it forces defenses to collapse on him, thus opening up a shooter. So those numbers have a solid chance of increasing. All in all, Knox isn’t a franchise star, but he can be a consistent piece to an NBA team.
The defensive side of the ball is a mixed bag for Knox, he does some things well and struggles in other areas. First, the bad news. One of the biggest concerns in Knox’s defensive game right now is his inability to stay on his man without the ball. Screens seem to be where he really has problems. He is often getting caught up, leaving his man without a defender for wide open shots. While trailing his man, he also chooses the wrong route to contend. When his man catches the ball, Knox is far behind and often he is struggling to catch up.
On the other hand, when his man does have the ball in his hands, Knox is a much more capable defender. Quick hips make it easier for Knox to shift once the player he’s guarding tries to attack the net, and his length makes it tough for players to shoot over him. Right now he may be more suited to guard against the small forward position, but once he gets to work on gaining more muscle he should be able to fend off power forwards as well.
Kevin Knox may not light the world on fire with his game right now, but he has the ability to become a really nice contributor, whether that’s in the starting lineup or the second unit.
Right now, Knox fits into the role of combo forward. He could be more of a traditional small forward or a small ball power forward based on the type of lineup being used. Much like Mikal Bridges, because of both forward spots in the starting lineup being filled, Knox would be used as a forward off of the bench initially. He would be able to come in and focus on getting his shots and trying to become a better facilitator. Putting Kevin Knox in a unit alongside defensive pit bull T.J. McConnell and (hopefully resigned) Ersan Ilyasova will help cover up some of his flaws while he tries to become more of a complete player.
Wing depth needs to be a priority this offseason, and drafting one like Knox in the first round this year will not only help give the Sixers depth, but also the possibility of having a player that can grow into a key player for several years.
Kevin Knox should be available when the Sixers are on the clock with the tenth pick, so the discussion will have to be made whether or not Knox is the guy the Sixers want. He probably isn’t the top option at the position. But he is one that can produce from day one, maybe not in a huge role, but in some type of limited role.
Drafting Knox at ten may be somewhat of a reach, but it is all about getting the guy who makes the team better in the long run. Because I believe Bridges will be taken before the Sixers are able to grab him, I do think the Sixers could end up pulling the trigger on selecting Knox. It isn’t the flashiest pick, but a solid, developmental pick that will help both now and down the road.