Kentucky forward Kevin Knox says he anticipates being chosen between the sixth and 12th pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
If that’s so, it suggests he’s made a good impression the past month. Going into the draft combine in mid-May, Knox was typically projected more in the 10-to-20 range. Sunday, he auditioned for the Charlotte Hornets, who hold the 11th pick.
How would Knox fit as a Hornet?
At 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, he has the build to play either forward spot. He averaged 15.6 points in his only college season, but his shooting was so-so at 34 percent from the college three-point line. When the Hornets opened the end of Knox’s workout to the media Sunday, after he’d exerted himself in an individual workout, he looked less than reliable from the NBA three-point line.
This was Knox’s last scheduled workout before the draft. He’s from Tampa, Fla., (his father was a former Florida State wide receiver) and he’s close friends with the Hornets’ Dwayne Bacon, who also grew up in Florida.
“Me and him are really close — he grew up 30 minutes from where I did. He told me to go hard, keep working and hopefully we’ll get to play together someday,” Knox said of Bacon, a rookie last season after being chosen 40th overall.
Knox was one of the top recruits in the 2017 recruiting class. Kentucky Coach John Calipari’s plan was to feature Knox as the team’s first option offensively. That worked to mixed results.
The Wildcats went through a span of losing six of nine in the SEC before recovering to win the conference tournament. They won two rounds of the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated by Kansas State.
While Knox was that team’s most talented player, by the end of the season he was not the Wildcats’ most important player, seemingly supplanted by point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is also expected to be a top-15 pick.
“I think I had a fairly decent season at Kentucky. It could have ended better,” said Knox, who won’t turn 19 until August. “I led my team pretty well. There were some games where we didn’t play really well — up-and-down — but as a freshman-led team, we played really well and I thought I played really well.”
It’s typical in the NBA Draft for players to turn pro after a single college season, so teams are projecting frequently what a player will be in three to five seasons: Knox more than most because of his age and, as ESPN analyst Jay Bilas described, he didn’t fully exploit his opportunity that one season at Kentucky.
“Everyone really likes me — my versatility, the way I can play” both small or power forward, Knox described. “How I can handle the ball, how I can get rebounds and push the ball. There’s a lot about my game that you can love, a lot I need to work on.”
Knox now gets a break for a couple of days before flying with family to New York for the draft. He said his body needs that, after a pretty grueling workout schedule. He came to Charlotte from an audition Friday in Philadelphia.
“Recovery-recovery-recovery,” Knox said. “Lots of stretching, lot of massages, eating right. Get my body back to 100 percent after a lot of bumps and bruises over the past couple of weeks.”