LAS VEGAS — After three games in the Las Vegas Summer League, one thing is abundantly clear about Kevin Knox, who was taken by the Knicks with the No. 9 pick in last month’s NBA Draft — the man can score.
Knox has struggled with his shooting, but still has filled the stat sheet. His 23.3 scoring average is tied for second in the Summer League with the Lakers’ Josh Hart, who is entering his second NBA season. The leader is the Hawks’ John Collins, who also is entering his second NBA season and is averaging 24.0 points per game.
There’s no telling whether those numbers will translate when the regular season begins, but it’s clear Knox knows how to put the basketball in the hole. “Like people say, this is Summer League,” Knox said after scoring 29 in the Knicks’ 109-92 loss to the Lakers Tuesday night. “It’s going to be hard to do this during the season.
“I’m playing well right now. I hope I can carry it over, but it’s different players, different systems, going against different people. It’s going to be a little bit tougher during the season, but I just want to stay in the gym, keep getting better, learn from the older guys and just hope I can keep playing well coming into the season.”
Through three games, Knox is shooting a very modest .386 percentage from the field, but a 5-of-7 night from three-point range against the Lakers boosted his three-point percentage to .381. He also has demonstrated a knack for drawing fouls and getting to the line to knock down 18 of 22 free throws for a sterling .818 percentage.
Against the Lakers, Knox missed all six of his shots in a scoreless first quarter, but lit it up the rest of the way, hitting four straight threes at one point in a third quarter rally that ended with the Knicks overcoming an 11-point deficit to pull into a tie at 78 at the end of the period. Knox hit at a .341 percent rate from three in college, but he believes he will do well in the NBA even from a longer distance.
“That’s something I do really well,” Knox said of his three-point shooting. “That’s something the coaches like me to do is to knock down that shot, and when they close out [on defense], they want me to go past people.”
Knox admitted the Lakers took him away in the fourth quarter with a switching defense that denied passes to him. But his desire to learn how to handle things like that is a major reason the Knicks chose Knox. When Knox isn’t playing, he’s often courtside as a fan at other Summer League games.
“Every time we play early, I come back and watch all the games,” Knox said. “I just love watching basketball. I think you can learn from watching other people play. I’ve got a lot of friends on other teams. That’s who I am. I like to watch college basketball, high school, it doesn’t matter.”
Knox, who won’t turn 19 until August, is an admitted basketball junkie. As such, he can’t wait for the regular season to begin so he can start measuring himself against the greats in the game. He’s looking forward to facing the NBA’s superstars.
“I like Paul George, Kevin Durant, Giannis [Antetokounmpo],” Knox said. “It’s going to be great to finally go against those guys. I know they’re going to come at me, but that’s the competitive nature I have and I’m going to try and go right back at them. It’s going to be fun going against them.”