And that’s a wrap so far for the Knicks summer league in Las Vegas! On Thursday night, the team lost in the playoff round of the Vegas Summer League to the Boston Celtics 82-75. 9th pick Kevin Knox had perhaps his worst game of the summer league so far. Coming into this matchup, he was averaging 23.3 PPG and 7.3 RPG, but when Semi Ojeleye was guarding him last night, he only had 15 points on 5/20 shooting, 4 boards, 3 assists, and 5 turnovers. This was the first time in all of Summer League so far that Kevin Knox was thrown out of his comfort zone when he had a more physical defender on him, and it definitely showed through.
Knox showed the world just why those fans that booed him during draft night should start cheering instead. He’s become a combo forward and has the ability to both shoot and drive. His jumpshot is what he was pretty known for on draft night, and it showed through for the first few summer league games. Against the Lakers, Knox shot 5/7 from 3-point land and is capable of knocking down a shot off the dribble as well. But the world also saw his explosiveness as well. Knox has a long first step that he uses to create separation between him and a defender, which then allows him to take a second step right up for a nifty layup. He’s also shown us his ability to finish around larger centers in the paint, which will be very useful in the NBA.
One aspect of his game that will need improvement is getting his teammates involved. More of then than not, Knox is the one taking the shot or driving the lane. He should work on a simple drive-and-kick, or look to get his teammate and fellow draftee Mitchell Robinson more involved. He is a very athletic guy, but he needs to be able to get his teammates more involved if he wants success in the NBA.
Knox will also need to learn to adjust for better defenders in the NBA and having Ojeleye guarding him was a great introduction to it. Ojeleye is a fast, physical, and athletic defender. On a drive in the third quarter, Knox beat Ojeleye with his long first step, but Ojeleye beat him to the block and drew a charge. A few possessions later, Ojeleye was physically guarding Knox on an isolation and forced a turnover. It seems that Knox got it easy the first 3 games, allowing him to showcase his offensive talent. But most NBA defenders will be similar to Ojeleye, and Knox needs preparation after the Summer League to prepare for these larger, more athletic and physical defenders.
But Thursday night’s matchup also revealed more promise in the Knicks 36th pick Mitchell Robinson. Robinson had his best game of the season so far, finishing the game with 17 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks, and 3 steals. He also shot 8/10 from the floor and 1/3 from the free-throw line. In the first 3 games of the season, Mitchell showed his presence mostly on the defensive end, swallowing up weak shot attempts and crashing the defensive glass. But this game also showcased his offensive talent as well. So far, Robinson’s offensive has been a combination of easy layups or dunks off of nice entry passes into the paint, or finishing alley-oops. He’s gotten very good at getting himself in position to score. But he will need to work on creating an opportunity for himself via developing a jump shot or a post presence if he wants to elevate his game to the next level.
Both of these young stars definitely showed the Knicks why they were right in drafting them. And if these guys put in the necessary work this offseason to improve their areas of weakness, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be getting playing time on the Knicks final roster.