The Detroit Pistons have not shied away from taking a chance on a reclamation project in the Troy Weaver era.
In Weaver’s first offseason as Pistons’ GM in 2020, he signed former fourth overall pick Josh Jackson to a two-year deal. Weaver and the front office took a flier on Jahlil Okafor, a former third overall pick, that same offseason.
Detroit was Okafor’s last stop to this point in his NBA career. The Duke product never recaptured the success of his rookie campaign. Jackson, however, found a bit more success. The former Kansas Jayhawk scored 13.4 points in his first season in the Motor City. Jackson has not become the star player he was projected to be coming out of college, but during his time in Detroit, he established himself as, at the very least, a capable rotational player.
The biggest reclamation project of the Weaver era is Marvin Bagley III. The team dealt Jackson alongside Trey Lyles and a collection of second-round picks to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Bagley at the 2022 trade deadline. Bagley, the second overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, never found his footing in Sacramento. He always posted solid numbers, but it was clear early on that something was off about his tenure with the Kings.
In Detroit, Bagley showcased the talent that made him a highly coveted prospect in college. He scored 14.6 points and collected 6.8 rebounds in 18 games with the Pistons. His good play was rewarded when the Pistons signed Bagley to a three-year, $37 million contract this offseason.
During the free agency period of this offseason, Weaver and the Pistons’ front office added yet another reclamation project. The Pistons agreed to terms with Kevin Knox on a two-year deal worth $6 million.
Kevin Knox had an unspectacular start to his career
A former lottery pick, Knox never lived up to the billing with the New York Knicks. His rookie season was, while not good, not exactly terrible either. Knox posted 12.8 points per game while shooting a rough 37 percent from the floor. From beyond the arc, he was more respectable, as he shot 34.3 percent on 4.9 attempts per game. He started in 57 of his 75 games played as a rookie, albeit on a roster that was not exactly bursting with talent.
Since his rookie season, Knox has regressed. The Kentucky product’s minutes dropped from 28.8 per game as a rookie to 17.9 per game in year two. His points per game were cut in half as well. Knox lacked opportunity on a Knicks team that held a 21-45 record in his second season.
In year three, Knox’s role with the team was diminished again. And by year four, he was almost completely out of the rotation. He was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline, but he was unable to find a role in Atlanta either.
Knox never developed into an efficient scorer. He never shot over 40 percent from the floor. By his fourth season, he shot 27.8 percent from beyond the arc. Knox was not a lights-out shooter in college, but he shot 44.5 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from three-point range in his lone season at Kentucky. One would hope his shooting at the NBA level would be better than what he has shown.
Knox has not supplemented his poor offense with solid defense either. The 22-year-old has a career 115 defensive rating and a -1.7 defensive box plus/minus. He averages a career 0.4 steals per game and 0.3 blocks per game. He simply has not made a positive impact on the defensive end thus far in his career.
Can Kevin Knox rejuvenate his career in Detroit?
Knox entered the NBA as a project player, and to this day, he is still a project. He has good size, with a 6-7, 215-pound frame. He has the positional flexibility to play either the three or the four, but he has not developed during his time in the league. In Detroit, opportunities to develop might be few and far between.
One thing that Josh Jackson benefitted from in Detroit was ample opportunity to play. In the first year of the rebuild, Weaver and the front office went into full teardown mode. With much of the previous regime’s roster gone, Jackson found himself with a lot of minutes on a Pistons team without a lot of talent.
The same opportunities might not be there for Knox. Weaver is now entering his third season as GM, and the Pistons have filled out their roster with plenty of young talent. While Detroit lacks significant depth at the forward spots, it is hard to imagine Knox anywhere but at the bottom of the depth chart at the forward positions.
Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Livers, Hamidou Diallo, Marvin Bagley III and Alec Burks are all more established talents than Knox at this point in their respective careers. Knox will have to show significant improvement as a shooter in order to place himself in Detroit’s rotation.
Signing Kevin Knox was a low-risk move for Weaver. His contract is cheap, and he still has the potential that made him a lottery pick. Does Knox reach that potential? Does he even reach the level of a productive rotational player? Probably not, but the potential is there. For a team like the Pistons, who are still in the midst of their restoration, taking a flier on Knox is a move that makes sense.
(Featured Image Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)