2024 NBA Draft: Is Lakers rookie Dalton Knecht perfect for JJ Redick and LeBron James?

NEW YORK — In April, Dalton Knecht got out of bed to a barrage of text messages. He also received a call from his parents. Everyone wanted the Tennessee wing to see the video of LeBron James talking about him.

“I thought it was fake,” Knecht said Wednesday at the Barclays Center.

Knecht’s name appeared only briefly in a lengthy clip of James discussing the relative popularity of the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments, posted by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. But it was clearly a big deal. James said he watched Tennessee’s game against Purdue “because of Zach Edey and Knecht.”

Now, Knecht and James are teammates, assuming the superstar re-signs with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason. Los Angeles selected the 23-year-old winger 17th overall in the draft.

“It’s going to be special,” Knecht said. “And it’s going to be fun to share this field with both of them, AD and Bron.”

Shortly before Knecht recalled Brooklyn’s video clip, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka told reporters in Los Angeles that he couldn’t believe their luck.

“We never imagined that such a talented and sort of perfect player for our needs would be there for us like Dalton Knecht,” Pelinka said via Jovan Buha of The Athletic. “We unanimously placed him as a top 10 player on our recruiting committees. I was at the SEC tournament scouting him extensively and in my mind I was like, ‘There’s no way that a player like this could be available for us to pick on draft night.’ .'”

Knecht, the oldest player selected in the first round Wednesday, was projected by ESPN, CBS Sports and other media outlets to be drafted in the top six. That would have been unusually high for a prospect his age, but Knecht was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season (and it’s an abnormal draft).

More precisely, Knecht was one of, if not THE college basketball’s best move shooter last season. Tennessee had him coming off tons of screens and he was great at reading the defense, finding open space and launching his shot. He made 42.3% of his catch-and-shoot 3s, according to Synergy Sports and 40.3% on disputed the catch-and-shoot 3s, which accounted for more than two-thirds of them.

Pelinka told reporters that new coach JJ Redick was already in front of his whiteboard, “drawing up pins, ATOs and plays where he could run a motion shooter off screens.” Informed of this, Knecht said: “It’s really exciting. At Tennessee, I watched a lot of JJ Redick with coach (Rick) Barnes, and the way he moves and moves and is able to create “space. So to hear that is really exciting, and it’s going to be really special.”

In theory, Knecht is perfect for Redick (who has already made it clear he wants to diversify the Lakers’ offense by using Anthony Davis as a transfer center) and James (who has a long track record of working well with shooting guards). elite). . Spacing has plagued Los Angeles for most of the LeBron era, and Redick, one of the best shooters in NBA history – especially when it comes to making difficult 3-pointers in movement – ​​unsurprisingly wants to modernize the Lakers. ‘insulted.

“I was joking with Coach Redick upstairs that we found a move shooter that matched his skill set as a player,” Pelinka told reporters. He also said, per Mark Medina of Spectrum SportsNet, that the Lakers view Knecht as a 3-and-D guy.

If Knecht can be a good defender in the NBA, then Pelinka is rightfully excited about this selection. (Pelinka said the Lakers are “really, really excited,” “couldn’t be more thrilled” and “couldn’t be happier.”) And maybe he will be. Knecht is bigger than the average motion shooter — he was 6-foot-5 without shoes in the draft, with a 6-foot-9 wingspan and weighed 212 pounds — and he’s physical. However, he was not a plus defender, either with or without the ball, in college, and he will undoubtedly be chased in the pros. This, combined with his age and a relative lack of ball juice offensively, is likely why he fell into Los Angeles’ lap.

Knecht said he thinks James and Davis will help him “on both ends of the court” and looks forward to competing alongside them. He didn’t directly address his draft slide, but he repeatedly said he feels like he’s been underestimated his whole life.

“Every time I touch a basketball or walk into a gym, I always feel like I have something to prove,” Knecht said.

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