Go ahead, Knicks fans. Dream about Kevin Knox’s upside. John Calipari thinks the Knicks hit a home run with his former player.
“It’s a futures league. He’s 18 years old. You’re trying to project who of these guys can be special, and when you look at what they were having at that pick, if that kid is a year or two older, he’s the one, two or three pick,” the Kentucky coach said shortly after the Knicks took the 6-foot-9 wing in the first round (ninth overall) in Thursday’s NBA draft at Barclays Center. “Physically, he’ll come into his own quicker than everybody thinks he will, and the league is moving to 6-foot-9 shooters, [being] able to play multiple positions, and he can do that.”
The former McDonald’s All-American from Florida with a 7-foot wingspan averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 34.1 percent from 3-point range, and led Kentucky to the Sweet 16. Calipari has compared him to Celtics phenom Jayson Tatum, a comparison the Kentucky coach didn’t back down from on Thursday. As a rookie, Tatum did things with Boston that Calipari didn’t see from him in college, as a long defender capable of scoring on the perimeter and in the paint.
“A big 6-foot-9 [forward] with the ability to score, block shots and do the things that he does, there’s similarities,” Calipari said.
Knox, however, wasn’t a popular pick. Knicks fans were chanting for Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr., the one-time projected No. 1 pick before back issues limited him to three games this past season, and there were boos when Knox was announced. But Calipari doesn’t think the New York pressure will get to Knox.
“He will be fine. He was at Kentucky,” he said with a smile. “Every game, the anticipation is to win and so I don’t think that will faze him.”