There are a couple rules in life I like to follow. Never trust someone with two first names. Never let someone dressed as Elvis officiate your wedding. And never, ever make too many sweeping judgments about a basketball player off his performance at NBA Summer League.
Still, I can’t lie – the last week has made me flip my stance on one of those rules (and for those asking, no I’m not getting married any time soon). Instead, it’s at Summer League where after a white-hot start, Kevin Knox is making re-consider everything I thought I knew about the event. Not only has Knox been a flat out revelation at Summer League and – all things considered – quite possibly the most impressive player, but he’s also shaping up to be the steal of the 2018 NBA Draft. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that when all is said and done, he could end up as one of the two or three best players in this entire class.
Kevin Knox has come to slam everything today. Lordy. pic.twitter.com/suTX7jg870
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) July 7, 2018
The ironic part about all that is that I was actually super-high on Knox even before the draft. If you guys listen to my podcast (subscribe here!) you know that out of every national media member I was quite possibly the most outspoken on Kevin Knox’s long-term ability, and when I saw him pegged as a guy who would likely go in the middle of the teen’s in most mock drafts, I publicly questioned it. At the time I truly believed he had the skill-set of someone who should go somewhere between the No. 5 and No. 10 pick in the draft. I’m not going to lie and say that I would have taken him over DeAndre Ayton or Marvin Bagley, but did think he should fall into the next group with Mo Bamba, Trae Young and Wendell Carter, as guys who should be taken in any order depending on the need.
Well apparently the Knicks were listening, and maaaaan have they looked smart so far.
For those who haven’t been following Summer League particularly closely here’s what you need to know: Through Tuesday’s games, Knox is averaging a paltry 23.3 points per game, on a combination of rim-rattling dunks, a solid mid-range game and deep three-point shooting that we knew he had at Kentucky, but didn’t always show. That 23.3 point per game average is tied for second most with the Lakers’ Josh Hart, with only Atlanta’s John Collins having a higher point per game average. Keep in mind that both of those guys are second year players who both spent last season in the NBA, giving them a leg up on the rookie class. In terms of Hart specifically, he turned 23-years-old in March, making him a full four-and-a-half years older than Knox, who won’t be 19 until next month.
And really, that’s one of the most incredible things to me about this performance from Knox so far – he’s doing it at just 18-years-old. Keep in mind that Knox isn’t just young by NBA standards or even Summer League standards (an event which is littered with guys in their mid to late 20’s looking to make the NBA), but he’s even young relative to his peers in the 2018 class. Some quick Wikipedia research reveals that he’s a full a year younger than guys like Ayton, Bagley and Bamba. Can you imagine how far along Knox will be a year from now, when he’ll actually be the same age as most of the 2019 draft class (for example, top 2019 draft prospect Cameron Reddish is just one month younger than Knox)? Heck, can you imagine where he’ll be six or seven years from now when he actually reaches his physical peak and potential?
Knicks fans going to sleep at night knowing we have Kevin Knox pic.twitter.com/xYfNIqdMLY
— Aaron Summers (@aporzee) July 11, 2018
That’s also why I don’t necessarily believe the whole “don’t put too much into Summer League performances” when it comes to Knox. For one, he isn’t a third or fourth year college player that is close to reaching his potential, but just now starting to scratch the surface. Furthermore, he’s got the perfect skill-set for today’s NBA. At 6’9, he’s comfortable taking opponents off the dribble, but also capable of taking and making deep three’s. In other words, he’s got the skills of a two-guard… but in a 6’9 frame. You know how valuable that is?
For comparison’s sake, think back to this year’s NBA playoffs. Remember that Rockets-Warriors series (which was basically the NBA Finals)? How there were times that outside of Kevin Durant (who is a once-in-a-generation, seven foot freak) no one on the floor was taller than 6’8 or 6’9? How everyone could handle the ball and shoot jumpers? How everyone needed to be able to defend multiple positions? How, to use a term John Calipari coined years ago, both those teams play “positionless basketball?”
To which I ask, name me one guy better suited for the “positionless” era in the NBA than Knox? There are a few who are equally as adept (Jaren Jackson, Michael Porter if healthy etc.). But nobody who can seamlessly handle things on the wing like Knox, who can score at all three levels and defend multiple positions.
Add it up and you can see why I’m so high on Knox. He’s the perfect player for the era we live in.
Admittedly there is still a long way to go and he has a lot of work to do, and no, Summer League isn’t always the be all, end all of a guy’s career.
Still, right now he looks fantastic.
He looks like the steal of the 2018 NBA Draft.