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NBA Daily: Kevin Knox Continues To Create A Buzz

With all the attention being paid to next year’s free agent class, might Kristaps Porzingis’ co-star already be on the Knicks roster?

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The 2018-19 season should be one of exploration and discovery for the Knicks front office. While the Knicks might not be a playoff squad this season, the team’s roster still faces lots of pressure from its engaged and knowledgeable fan base – which still shows up at Madison Square Garden regardless of how they perform.

While the team will likely get another pass regarding results this season with Kristaps Porzingis out for a significant chunk of the year, New York should capitalize on an opportunity to decide who is a future building block and who will be elsewhere come next season.

Though summer league is watered down and unstructured and preseason is more about ironing out kinks rather than securing victories, one thing is for sure: Kevin Knox has created a buzz.

From reacting confidently to the boos on draft night to being named a first-team All-Summer League performer, Knox has proven himself to be the right pick for the Knicks with every opportunity he’s been given.

Knox has been every bit as good as advertised, and then some. He is a talented 6-foot-9 wing who embodies everything basketball has become: positionless, versatile and athletic. He is a perfect blend of confident and humble, a combination that New York fans will flock to. And while rookie comparisons set unrealistic expectations, they are incredibly commonplace.

Bleacher Report compared him to Kelly Oubre Jr. in May prior to the NBA Draft, but that was before we saw him in a free-flowing NBA offense. NBADraft.net compared him to Jayson Tatum, which is a relatively humbling comparison. As for this writer – despite having a very big pair of shoes to fill – the similarities with back-to-back NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant are too close to ignore.

That is high praise for a 19-year-old yet to score a regular season bucket, but comparisons are hard to come by for the skilled forward. Consider for a moment all of the things Knox has done thus far: rebound, block shots, get into passing lanes, collect assists, make highlight dunks, demonstrate a smooth shooting stroke, execute crafty finishes around the rim, etc. He boasts a skill set shared by few.

And not only do his skills translate to fill a stat sheet, but they directly impact the game positively. Take Monday night’s win for example. In the Knicks preseason opener, Knox was as good as advertised.

He posted 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals in 26 minutes, tying a team-high with a plus-seven to boot. He demonstrated a smooth shooting stroke, initiated fast breaks off of rebounds and played with confidence. He also proved that he has NBA three-point range and can stop on a dime for pull-up jumpers. That’s all very important to his success – but one needs more than skill to succeed in the NBA, as there are plenty of examples of uber-skilled players who have flamed out for various reasons.

Knox seems to have an “it” factor. The young man seems to understand that it’s more than a game and there’s a business side to the league. Credit Kentucky head coach John Calipari for preparing him to deal with the media circus that goes along with playing in New York. Knox is articulate and poised in a way that most rookies simply are not. He has a strong support network of Wildcat draftees like De’Aaron Fox to lean on for advice – a network Knox said on media day that he has already leveraged.

But he has more than poise going for him. He also has swagger. He comprehends that the Knicks are rebuilding. However, on media day, Knox said – in no uncertain terms – that he expects to compete for a playoff spot. Additionally, he reiterated his goal of winning Rookie of the Year, although the question was explicitly posed by a reporter and not broached by Knox (which gets back to his humility). He is confident in his abilities and his work ethic, and he welcomes the challenge of playing next to Porzingis in New York. Knox has all of the characteristics to be successful in the league, and, just as importantly, in the Big Apple.

Getting back to the Durant comparison, though – which is by no means a prediction – who else makes for an appropriate comparison? Forget that they have an eerily similar wingspan (7-foot-5 for Durant versus 7-foot-5 and a quarter-inch for Knox), and ignore that they’re both listed at the same height – especially considering Durant has grown taller. There are few 6-foot-9, 215-pound forwards that can lead a break, initiate an offense, stroke threes and elevate for highlight-worthy dunks.

Maybe it’s a misnomer to compare him to anyone, past or present, and perhaps we shouldn’t burden him with comparisons and the pressure they bring. After all, Knox needs to develop at an incredibly impressive rate to grow into anything nearly as successful as what Durant has become.

But let’s put all of that aside for a moment.

If not Durant, whose game does Knox most closely resemble?

Basketball Insiders contributor residing in the Bronx, New York.

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