GREENBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — When New York Knicks president Steve Mills and the basketball operations department studied their roster and the players available to them in the NBA draft, they came to the same conclusions.
The Knicks lacked talent, and needed a player with the flexibility to play in multiple spots.
Kevin Knox checked off those boxes. And so the decision-makers were comfortable using the ninth pick Thursday night on the 18-year-old forward.
“We were set,” Mills said at the team’s training facility. He called Knox a “perfect fit for how we want to play.”
Knox played one season at Kentucky, where he led the Wildcats in scoring at 15.8 points per game and 3-pointers with 57. Mills said the Knicks held “two or three different conversations” with John Calipari, Knox’s coach at Kentucky.
The Knicks “did our research,” Mills said. “(We) did our due diligence.”
Knox shared the SEC’s Freshman of the Year award with Alabama guard Collin Sexton, who was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and was also an AP Honorable Mention on the All-America team.
At 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, Knox shot .445 from the field, and .341 from 3-point range.
“He fits what we’re going to be about,” Knicks GM Scott Perry said. “He’s long, he’s athletic, he can play multiple positions, we think he has tremendous upside. He’s coming from a program in Kentucky that’s produced a lot of great pros.
“We thought Kevin was an excellent fit for what we’re trying to get done here.”
Earlier in the day, Knox told CBS2’s Otis Livingston he thought he “fit the mold” of both the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.
“There’s a mecca of basketball at Madison Square Garden, so I think I’d fit pretty well,” he said.
New York is coming off a 29-53 season as it tries to rebuild. The franchise’s cornerstone piece, Kristaps Porzingis, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in February and it isn’t known if he will play this season.
New York has only nine players under contract, after reserve center Kyle O’Quinn opted out of the last year of his $4.3 million contract Wednesday, although starting center Enes Kanter could opt out of his $18.6 million contract on June 29. Joakim Noah, who was banished from the team following an incident with then-coach Jeff Hornacek during a practice in Denver, is still under contract and is slated to earn $18.53 million next season.
While it is unlikely that the Knicks will be a playoff team next spring, Perry pushed back against the notion that the selection of Knox over Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. was a symbolic waiving of the white flag on the 2018-19 season.
“There’s a lot of talented young people in this draft,” Perry said of Knox, who is the youngest player the Knicks have drafted since Michael Sweetney in 2003. “We just thought Kevin separated himself for us.”
The Knicks’ youth movement continued in the second round as the team used the 36th overall pick on Mitchell Robinson. The 20-year old is listed at 6-11 and 225 pounds, but did not play college basketball despite having committed to Western Kentucky University.
As a senior at Chalmette High School in Chalmette, Louisiana, Robinson averaged 19.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 7.9 blocks. He played in the 2017 McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games, which are showcases for the pre-eminent high school players in the country.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)