It is safe to say that Kevin Knox II has not lived up to expectations so far in his NBA career.
The New York Knicks selected the former Kentucky Wildcat with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Knox was a project player coming out of college. He remains a project to this day.
Knox had an okay, but far from good, rookie season in New York. He averaged 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as a rookie. He was incredibly inefficient shooting 37 percent from the floor and 34.3 percent from beyond the arc. Knox struggled as a rookie, but he had flashes of good play. He scored a career-high 31 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. Knox was efficient in that matchup as well.
After his rookie season, Knox saw his minutes fall in each subsequent season. His points per game fell as well. He never shot above 40 percent from the floor with the Knicks, and it became clear the team was ready to give up on him by the end of his second season. Knox was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in the middle of his fourth season in the NBA. He did not see much playing time in Atlanta either.
Kevin Knox is the Pistons’ latest reclamation project
Detroit Pistons GM Troy Weaver has brought in plenty of reclamation projects during his tenure with the team. Some, like Marvin Bagley III, have worked out. Others, like Jahlil Okafor, did not pan out so well. Knox is the latest in Weaver’s line of second-chance projects.
During the 2022 offseason, the Pistons’ front office signed Knox to a two-year deal worth $6 million.
Injuries provided an opportunity to receive minutes early in the 2022-23 season. Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, Marvin Bagley III and Isaiah Livers all missed the start of the regular season due to injury. Knox played in seven of Detroit’s first 10 games of the season. It was not pretty for the 23-year-old forward.
Knox averaged two points per game while shooting 26.1 percent from the floor and 13.3 percent from three-point range in his first seven appearances. At times he forced contested shots, and he missed open loos as well. He did not bring anything positive on the defensive end to alleviate his poor offense either.
As the Pistons’ roster got healthier, Knox rode the bench.
Then Cade Cunningham injured his shin, Isaiah Stewart injured his toe, and Saddiq Bey went down with an injury as well. Mounting injuries thrust Knox back into Detroit’s rotation. The young forward had another chance. So far, he is making the most of it.
Kevin Knox is enjoying a strong five-game stretch
Since Nov. 20, Knox has been a much different player than he was at the start of the season. The 23-year-old is playing with more confidence, and his shots are starting to fall.
Over the past five games, Knox is averaging 11.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He is shooting 61.1 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from beyond the arc during that span as well. His minutes have jumped to 23.9 per game as well. Knox’s stock is trending up over the past few games.
In Detroit’s 125-116 victory over the Utah Jazz, Knox scored down a season-high 21 points, his highest point total since his rookie season. Knox knocked down a career-high six three-pointers in that game as well. Knox closed out the game for Detroit, scoring 12 fourth-quarter points.
Is Kevin Knox good now?
Knox is finding his niche as a role player. He still struggles around the rim, and he is not attempting many pull-up jumpers either. He is averaging 32.4 touches per game over the past five games, ranking in the middle of the pack of the Pistons’ roster. Knox is not holding onto the ball too long as he averages just 1.6 seconds per touch, the third lowest of any Piston to see the court since Nov. 20.
Knox is shooting 55 percent on four catch-and-shoot threes per game. That is where he is hanging his hat for the Pistons over the past few games. Knox is not looking to create for himself very often, and he is not a ball-stopper either. If he has a good look at the basket, he is taking it. If he does not, he is moving the ball.
It is still to be seen whether Knox can continue performing at this level for a prolonged period of time. With Bey returning to the lineup, Knox is likely to see his minutes start to fall again, but he should continue to hold a spot in the rotation with all of Detroit’s other injuries in the mix. If Knox continues to play close to his current level of play, it is going to be very hard for the Pistons to remove him from the rotation once the roster becomes healthier.
Knox’s past consistency struggles make it hard to say he is definitively turning a corner. There is a chance that Knox regresses to the mean and finds himself outside of Detroit’s rotation again. Only time will tell. He may have already missed his chance to be a potential star, but right now, Knox is playing like a reliable bench player. If he can continue to build off his strong five-game stretch, Knox is going to build staying power in the league.
(Featured Image Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports)