By: Matt Brooks
Welcome back to The OmniFan’s three-part 2018-2019 roster preview! This week, we have been going over the Knicks’ 25-and-under talent that should have fans buzzing. If you missed Part 1 of this series, go ahead and check that out here.
With that out of the way, let’s go over the two players on the Knicks’ roster who possess serious superstar potential:
What more can I really add about the Unicorn that hasn’t been said? The big-man was absolutely dominant through the first month of the 2017–2018 season, posting an absurd 27.7 PPG while leading the team to a surprising 8–6 record, good for 7th in the East. Sadly, the team’s celebration was short-lived, as Porzingis tore his ACL in February (an injury that will likely sideline him until the All-Star break of this season). Even with the injury, Porzingis made his case as one of the best young players in the league and showed potential in leading the Knicks to the playoffs as their go-to guy.
However, just by looking at the numbers, as phenomenal as that start of the season was for Porzingis, he did experience a tailing-off of sorts as the year progressed.
Porzingis saw his PPG and shooting percentage numbers slip with each coming month. As someone who watched him A TON, this can (and should) be attributed to the absurdly high 31.1% usage rate that Porzingis posted in the first two months of the season (placing Porzingis alongside the likes of Westbrook/Giannis/LeBron/Harden in terms of usage). The team’s lack of talent surrounding Porzingis wore him down, as the Unicorn began to settle for lower percentage shots (i.e. Fadeaway Jumpers). Eventually, Porzingis’ tremendous workload finally caught up to him, resulting in the aforementioned season-ending injury.
Here’s my concern… Yes, Porzingis had a RIDICULOUS workload. However, the Knicks did a fairly good job at keeping his minutes under 35 per-game, which is why I’m a bit concerned with his conditioning. Whether this means hiring a real personal trainer or simply hitting the weights more frequently, Porzingis needs to alter his body composition to support that insane 7'3" frame. If he’s unable to do so, the Knicks may be forced into cutting down his minutes further. It’s tough to rely on a player of Porzingis’ stature for heavy minutes (see: Yao Ming), but if there’s one thing we have learned about Kristaps so far, it’s that he is not afraid to defy the odds.
I have one golden rule when it comes to predicting success in the NBA draft. Always, ALWAYS sell high on players from the University of Kentucky.
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. For the most part, the draft is a complete and utter crapshoot — it’s nearly impossible to predict who will succeed and who will fail in the future.
One thing seems to ring clear each and every season though: ex-Kentucky players have continued to shock the world by outperforming their pre-draft expectations. Whether this be Karl-Anthony Towns unearthing previously unseen shooting capabilities, or Devin Booker busting out some elite off-the-dribble chops and nifty posts moves, guys that have played under Coach Cal tend to have more than meets the eye.
That brings us to Kevin Knox, the Knicks’ recent 9th overall selection, who appears to be following that trend by showcasing elite NBA skills that were hidden in plain sight.
The first thing that sticks out about Knox? His athleticism. The guy is an explosive leaper with some killer speed for a 6'9" wing. Just take a look at his first summer league basket:
Kevin Knox gets his first bucket in style in Vegas! pic.twitter.com/ttQEelaFlf— NBA (@NBA) July 7, 2018
Yeah. You can’t teach that type of athleticism. Outside of his ferocious dunking, what really makes him special is his surprisingly tight handle and ability to get to the rim. With a fearless attitude and a quick first step, Knox is very comfortable with getting to the cup from both sides of the court, executing nifty lay-ins, floaters, and even baby hook-shots. One of the guys that I see people comparing Knox to is Paul George. However, even at 18-years-old, Knox is already far better at getting to the line (6.5 FTA, albeit in Summer League) than Paul George ever was (career 4.4 FTA per game). Knox’s nifty finishes around the rim are slightly reminiscent of Kyle Kuzma from the Lakers. What takes him a level higher than Kuz is his superior speed, ball-handling, and overall aggressiveness, and there are times where his game gives me shades of (dare I say it) Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The best part about Knox’s Summer League performance? He put up 21.3 PPG/6.5 RB without a consistent three-point shot. Coming out of the draft, Knox was pegged as a potential 3-and-D wing, much like an Otto Porter or even a Tobias Harris. Looking at his shot, you can see why! He has the makings of a nice shot — good form, balanced shoulders, and a consistent follow-through. The only thing he needs is more reps. Which, by the way, he’s going to get a ton of with Porzingis sidelined until February! Don’t be surprised if Knox ends up winning the 2019 Rookie of the Year.
The 1–2 punch of Knox and Porzingis has the potential to give the team a lethal offense. I’m really hoping that these two grow to resemble how Kristaps and Melo should have looked. Porzingis is really more of an outside-in player and should match perfectly next to Knox’s slashing capabilities. On paper, the fit should be seamless.