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NBA Daily: Is Kevin Knox The Sleeper In The Next Tier?

Kentucky’s Kevin Knox may be one of the most skilled players in the 2018 NBA Draft, but will concerns about motor and competitiveness push him down to a situation where he could really shine in the NBA?

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The Second Youngest, Biggest Upside?

Kentucky forward Kevin Knox held his Pro Day in Miami in front of more than 18 teams’ representatives and scouts. The setting was meant to showcase Knox as more than a stand in the corner shooter, and the workouts were meant to push him a little, not just have him run easy sets that only showed his positives.

At times Knox struggled, which to many in attendance created a lot more questions than answers, which could cause Knox to slide a little in the draft process.

Amusingly, despite questions from scouts, almost no one would concede that Knox wouldn’t get drafted if he was there when their team drafted; many of those teams are drafting right in Knox’s projected range. Illustrating in part how meaningless workouts can be; especially when looking at a prospect with immensely raw and untapped skill, such as Knox.

For his part, Knox just wanted to show teams he’s worth investing in, knowing that his brightest days are in front of him as the second youngest domestic player in the 2018 NBA draft, just behind Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the draft,” Knox told Basketball Insiders. “[I’m’] working hard. There are different types of teams in the lottery, getting used to working out for them, show them my talent. Show them I got better over the summer.”

Knox understands what’s at stake but doesn’t try to get caught up in the executives in the crowd.

“We play in front of all these people in college or in high school,” Knox said. “These people out here are evaluating for you to make millions of dollars, so it’s kind of a little bit of pressure on you, but overall I thought I handled it pretty well.”

Knox’s lone season at Kentucky was a mixed bag, to put it nicely. There were games that showed his promise and games that showed his flaws.

“My game’s totally different than what I did at Kentucky,” Knox explained. “At Kentucky, I played more off the ball but I’m showing people in my workouts that I can really play on the ball. Handle the ball, pick and rolls, being able to take them off the dribble… make passes. I mean a lot of people just didn’t know how well I could handle the ball in college.”

Knox projects to be a Small Forward in the NBA and his handle, outside shot and ability to play through contact are things he showcased at his Pro Day, and things that could make him a solid NBA player.

The big question around Knox isn’t his upside, which scouts in attendance at his Pro Day conceded is extremely high — it’s his motor. Knox understands where that comes from, and knows he has a long way to go to prove to teams that he’s not the player he seemed to be at Kentucky.

“I don’t believe none of that,” Knox said of his motor. “I let people say it all they want but I got a really good motor. I think that I do really well at handling fatigue, playing through it. There was a couple games that I’ll give it to them, I didn’t have the best motor, but you can’t judge somebody off of just one or two games. I think overall I got a really good motor, I mean, I’m really good at just being able to fight through fatigue so, that’s kind of a misconception.”

Knox’s age is a big factor in how teams view him. Historically, NBA teams gravitate to youth in the draft process, especially with skills like Know possesses. Knox understands he has more to learn.

“A lot of people think the age plays a big difference,” Know said. “I just tell people, I mean I got a lot left that I can learn. I mean I’m only 18 years old, I don’t turn 19 till August, so there’s a lot of stuff that I haven’t’ even learned yet. [I’m] going to be able to get to an NBA team; learn from different coaches, learn from players, I think it’s just going to help me. I think being that I’m this young at an early age and being this good, as I am, is going to help me a lot in the long run.”

The long run is the key part in evaluating Knox’s potential and despite his flaws at this point in the process. NBA teams seem to be very high on his potential in the future.

Knox has been in to see the Orlando Magic at six, the Cleveland Cavaliers at eight, the New York Knicks at nine. The Philadelphia 76ers, who draft at ten, had two high-ranking executives at Knox’s Pro Day, as did the Charlotte Hornets, who pick at 11. The LA Clippers seem fairly high on Knox at 12 and 13, which most people consider Knox’s floor.

There is little doubt Knox is going to be drafted fairly high; the question becomes, in time, will he become one of the better players in the class? That will be the bet NBA teams have to make.

Given what’s already there with Knox, it’s hard not to believe that in the right competitive environment he won’t flourish, but that’s not a given if the situation isn’t one that won’t bring out the best in the player.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21st in Brooklyn, so the moment of truth for Knox is just around the corner.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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