An opportunity for Kevin Knox to turn it around

David Vertsberger

The New York Knicks will be without Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. when they take on the Miami Heat this afternoon, narrowing their point guard or lead ball-handler options down to Elfrid Payton, Kadeem Allen and maybe some R.J. Barrett. New York has yearned for steady offensive creation, especially from the perimeter, all season, but this latest wave of injuries gives them an opportunity to find new sources of that creation - and potentially turn Kevin Knox's recent slump around.

Let Knox loose as a playmaker. Under former head coach David Fizdale, Knox ran the occasional pick-and-roll but since he's essentially been delegated to spot-up shooting. The returns have been poor: 26% shooting from the field and 21% from deep in his last nine outings. Clearly something needs to change, and giving Knox different looks and an alternative way to contribute other than scoring could mitigate his struggles. 

Knox and creating for others rarely find themselves in the same sentence, he's had low assist numbers throughout his young career. However, he's shown to have a knack for passing in fleeting moments:

That's a perfect skip pass to the weak-side shooter off a pick-and-roll, a read Knox has shown off numerous times. He has an eye for defenses over-crowding the ball side:

Some of his passing plays are straight highlight-reel material:

Why isn't this discussed much with Knox? He doesn't pass as much as he should, which could be due to his own tendencies, lack of emphasis by his coaching staff, but likely a mix of the two. This afternoon's matchup could be a chance for him to show off more of this part of his game and build up his confidence with two of New York's creators on the mend.

Will Knox immediately blossom into a point-forward and make up for the injuries devastating the team? Likely not. Though his passing shows promise, his ball-handling still needs a lot of work and makes up half of the equation. But in the face of a second consecutive disappointing year from Knox, the Knicks should pursue every shred of potential they can pluck from their prospect, then develop it. 

Short a mid-season trade or miracle run, the postseason is out of the question. At some point the franchise will have to realize this and work to use the remainder of the season to build up their young core as much as possible. They can start today with Knox.