Kevin Knox is one of the youngest and most physically intriguing players in the entire draft class. Standing at 6’9 with a 6’11.75 wingspan at just 18 years old, Knox represents a blank canvas for most NBA teams, many believing they can mold the young gun into the forward prospect most teams need. Having played both forward spots in college, Knox showed some intriguing skills, some red flags, and oozed potential at Kentucky. Like many Kentucky prospects before him, it’s very likely that the forward was limited by the system and the personnel. Just look at Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, and Jamal Murray, three players who showed much more in their rookie seasons at the NBA level than they did in their lone seasons at the college level.
But is Knox closer to one of those stars or an overrated young prospect like Malik Monk, Terrence Jones, or James Young? All six were drafted in the top 18 and both Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are likely to join them. How Knox develops, how much patience a team has in his growth, and Knox’s dedication to practicing the right things will determine whether he can be successful at the NBA level.
Weight: 213 lbs
Standing Reach: 9’0”
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Scoring Instincts. Knox led Kentucky in scoring this season, averaging 15.6 points per game. He has a smooth-looking shot that makes it conceivable that he could become a reliable knock-down three-point shooter at the NBA level in time, despite his 34% three-point shooting numbers last season in college. He’s so tall that he is able to get his shot off against most defenders, even if that shot is often a pull-up mid-range jumper.
Young. Knox is the third youngest player in the draft so there is reason to be optimistic about his development curve. He won’t turn 19 years old until August so there’s even a chance that he could grow another inch or two and quickly fill out his already tall frame.
Mobility. A player this size with this much perimeter-level mobility is going to have upside. Knox looks like an NBA star talent. He’s graceful and smooth in the open court and has shown some one- and two-dribble moves that remind of Paul George. There’s certainly reason to believe Knox can grow into a nice off-the-dribble weapon on offense.
Shot selection and efficiency: With Knox’s scoring ability comes a propensity to settle for B- and C- shot attempts. He really loved that mid-range game at Kentucky but at the NBA level, that’s a shot that he’ll have to use sparingly. He also struggles to get all the way to the rim for easy paint points and free throw attempts.
Rebounding: Knox uses his length well on the offensive end, especially with regards to his jumpshot, but he does not use it well on the boards. His 9.3 rebound percentage is low for a forward and aligns with some of the bigger criticisms about his game and how he avoides contact. He’ll need to toughen up quickly at the NBA level and learn how to embrace the physical aspects of the game.
Defense: He has the physical tools to become a solid all-around defender but he’ll enter the draft as an inconsistent and unproven defender. He’s at his best when he just uses his size to stay in front of his man, luring them into pull-up jump shots which he can contest with his long arms.
Fit with the Nuggets
I would see why the Denver Nuggets could be intrigued by Knox. There is a scenario in which he develops into the next Paul George if he can bulk up and improve his basketball IQ and shot selection. However, there is also a scenario in which Knox is a decent but below-average three-point shooter and never improves enough defensively to play small forward. Denver already has a handful of young prospects who fit the combo-foward profile and who have questions about their defense, including Trey Lyles, Juancho Hernangomez, and Tyler Lydon.
There’s also a question about how Knox would fit into Denver’s timeline. The best course of action for Knox is to enter the league with low expectations and room to slowly grow into a role in the rotation. Denver would either have to ty to shoehorn him into the small forward position or have him battle the three other stretch fours curently on the roster and Paul Millsap for playing time. Even if Knox wins out, that means Lydon, Juancho, or Lyles are probably never seeing the court.
Ultimately, Knox is intriguing but probably not the right guy for Denver.