The Charlotte Hornets are picking 11th overall in 2018 NBA draft, meaning the team is missing out on marque talents like Deandre Ayton, and Luka Doncic. But, as history has shown us, there will be players who slip out of the top ten that become quality NBA players.
One prospect who has been linked to Charlotte is Kevin Knox. Knox finished his freshman year at Kentucky averaging 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. NBA mock drafts ranging from Bleacher Report to CBS Sports have the Hornets selecting the nineteen year old. Should the Hornets pull the trigger on him? Let’s find out.
Knox’s positive traits include his size, deep ball, and transition scoring. At 6’9”, 215 pounds, and with about a seven-foot wingspan, he has the right stature to play the modern NBA three and four. His length should benefit him when he gets switched onto larger player defensively while also allowing him to shoot over the top of the vast majority of defenders he’ll face in the NBA. His jump shot, especially from three, looks very fluid and without any mechanical issues; he shot a respectable 34 percent from three on over four attempts per game. If this consistency follows to the pros, then he would have an easier time into transitioning into the league. Finally, because of his size and athleticism, Knox has been able to score time and time again off defensive rebounds in transition. He is able to catch the ball off the initial pass to score, while also being able to go coast to coast as a ball handler after a rebound in transition. All of these characteristics solidify Knox as an athletic and very versatile forward, especially in today’s NBA.
Of course, just like every NBA prospect, there are weaknesses in his game. Those weaknesses include motor, weight, and shot selection. When Knox was feeling it during his time at Kentucky this year, he seemed to show no fatigue. However, when his shots weren’t falling, there were instances where Knox appeared to be apathetic and unwilling to hustle up and down the floor. I do believe that this motor issue can be fixed by improved strength and conditioning practices at the NBA level.
Right now, Knox seems “light” compared to his forward counterparts in the NBA. As a result, he may find difficulties in defending the post and attacking inside against NBA players early on in his career. A realistic goal for him would be to gain 15-20 pounds of muscle in a span of two to three years, a similar timetable for Frank Kaminsky when he was asked to add muscle. If he does this, he could then have the strength to defend all five positions. This would also allow him to become an excellent post scorer as he would be able to bully opponents down low.
Knox’s shot selection is also a question mark. Often this year, he would take too many contested perimeter shots. That could be because of an unwillingness to drive inside, lack of ball handling, or lack of ability to move off ball to get better shots. But, once again, I believe this can be fixed. There is more spacing in the NBA than ever before, which should help Knox find more open looks. Of course, improving his handles would also go a long way towards him finding better shots for himself. The positive outlook on Knox’s weaknesses is that they aren’t catastrophic and can be overcome with time.
My NBA comparison for Knox is Portland Trailblazer Al-Farouq Aminu. Both players are 6’9” and have shown the ability to switch onto different positions on defense. Both can shoot the three at a respectable rate while being able to score in transition. However, I think Knox could be a better player than Aminu because of his athleticism and offensive versatility. A more lofty comparison for the former Wildcat is Paul George. Sure, Knox does not have all the reliable offensive abilities as PG, but there is a chance that he could achieve such skill. Through development, offseason improvement over many summers, and established coaching, the comparison between Knox and George may not be as far fetched as it initially seems.
If the Hornets were to draft Knox with the 11th pick in the draft, I believe that coach James Borrego would play him primarily as a small forward off the bench because of the success that the Hornets had with both Frank Kaminsky and Willy Hernangomez on the court together. It would also put Knox ahead of Dwayne Bacon the bench unit, allowing for more shooting for the reserves. Plus at 6’9”, Knox would be taller than most of the other reserve threes in the league potentially allowing him more post up opportunities to score. The full reserve lineup would then be Malik Monk, Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Knox, Frank Kaminsky, and Willy Hernangomez. Spacing and transition opportunities would be plentiful. This group could bring back the good times provided by Bench Force 1 during the 2015-16 season.
The Hornets should draft Kevin Knox with the 11th pick in the 2018 draft. He has the arsenal and size to become a great multi-dimensional scorer. He could become the reliable small forward that the team has been searching for over the past six years.