The Kevin Knox experiment was nice while it lasted, but the New York Knicks need a more reliable man on the wing.
After two years, the New York Knicks are already at a crossroads with Kevin Knox.
In that time, the former Kentucky Wildcat has gone from hotshot first-round draft pick to barely a rotational player. He’s still only 20 years old, but his rapid rise (if it can even be called that) and fall in New York is telling. It may not seem obvious, but Knox is quickly moving towards being labeled an NBA bust.
Except, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Knicks have a brand spanking new front office and plenty of draft assets. Knox is more than capable of getting a fresh start on a new team and meeting his potential. There is a map he can follow to becoming a better player.
But it all starts with new president Leon Rose, who needs to be assertive and make the hard decision to move on from Kevin Knox. And the sooner the better.
Another overhyped Knicks prospect
Easy as it would be to bang on the Knicks for drafting Kevin Knox too high, I’m not going to do that. As we’ve discussed before, the NBA is now a scorer’s league. Having multiple defensive wings is ideal. Even if New York reached on Knox at No. 9, there was at least some method to the madness.
And on paper, Knox checked a lot of boxes. He was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American out of Florida’s Tampa Catholic High School. His father played football at Florida State. This hype followed Knox to Kentucky, where he averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds. The Wildcats made it to the Sweet Sixteen and Knox was named SEC Rookie of the year.
Except the Knicks clearly didn’t do their research. Kevin Knox was drafted for his athleticism and scoring upside. New York needed a scoring point guard more and could have drafted Knox’s teammate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Yet, team president Steve Mills opted for Knox.
Now, fast forward to the present day. Mills, after nearly two decades of bad decisions across two separate stints, was reassigned to MSG’s sports division and replaced by Rose. Knox went from averaging 12.8 points as a rookie to not even playing 20 minutes a game this year, his DBPM a subaverage -1.9.
Gilgeous-Alexander, meanwhile, is thriving as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s star guard.
So what’s next?
This all boils down to one key truth: Leon Rose has to buck up and make a decision. Publicly, he’s been non-committal on the matter. Behind the scenes offers something of a clearer picture, but not by much.
In April, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported Kevin Knox’s “inner circle was supremely frustrated” because he didn’t get extended minutes once Rose was hired in March. Berman also added that Rose didn’t “know what to make of Knox” and thus hadn’t committed to a decision.
But last month, there was a development. Berman, reliably on the scene once again, reported Rose was “not sold” on Knox but wanted to watch him play in the Knicks’ last 16 games. The COVID-19 pandemic then suspended the season, and New York will not be playing in the Orlando bubble when it resumes.
All signs thus point to the New York Knicks likely moving on from Kevin Knox this offseason. The good news is there is a market for him, as the New Orleans Pelicans showed interest when trying to trade Anthony Davis last year. Additionally, Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne told Berman Knox could improve and even play well with a new coach.
But no matter who the Knicks hire as their next coach, one thing is certain. Between Barrett’s continued development and some talented wings in this year’s draft class, Kevin Knox is running on borrowed time in New York.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t me saying Leon Rose has to publicly address Kevin Knox’s status right now. New York isn’t even playing later this month and shouldn’t take attention away from the restarted season. Rose has time to make a decision, be it keeping the athletic former Wildcat or trading him away.
And given the needs of the Knicks, the right move is to move on. Kevin Knox is a raw talent who not only needs a patient coach but a patient organization. His development is going to take time and riding the bench in New York won’t help. Once the Knicks can start trade talks involving him, they should.
Most important of all, trading Knox means the Knicks are serious about changing the culture. That isn’t to say get rid of everyone Steve Mills drafted. Otherwise, Barrett and athletic big Mitchell Robinson would also be gone. They’re potential franchise cornerstones and should be treated as such because even Mills’ broken clock was right twice a day.
But that doesn’t take away from the fact that for a long time, the Knicks struggled to turn around the franchise. Rose was hired to help change that.
This means that the moment the offseason hits in October, Rose has to commit to Kevin Knox one way or another. He’s either staying with the team and battling for minutes in his third season, or the team will move on from him and try to make a trade.
And if Rose is serious about the Knicks moving forward as a team, he’ll move Kevin Knox sooner rather than later.