“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.

Dalton Knecht is a 23-year-old wing from Fargo, North Dakota, who averaged 21.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists for the Tennessee Volunteers. He is expected to be selected in the lottery. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 10.

NBA-Specific Skills

While most of this year’s lottery prospects bring theoretical upside to the table, Dalton Knecht brings productivity.

Tennessee asked Knecht to do everything last season, and he delivered nearly 22 points a game on strong efficiency. As his responsibilities increased, so did his level of play. He drilled nearly 40% of his 3-point attempts last season on 6.5 attempts a game, many of them off the bounce or on the move.

He wasn’t just a one-dimensional long-range bomber, either. Knecht tenaciously attacked closeouts and showed the ability to finish in traffic with either hand. If he is playing with a ball-dominant playmaker, Knecht can get buckets off cuts and even the occasional lob finish. There is even a surprising bully-ball game at his disposal if a team tries to hide a smaller defender.

He’s a stout 6-6, 215 with terrific bounce (39-inch max vert) and length (8-7.5 standing reach) – terrific two-guard measurables at the next level.

Knecht isn’t a tunnel-vision gunner. Although Tennessee required him to shoulder a heavy scoring load, Knecht is a willing passer with good court vision and touch on his passes.

While most of his lottery brethren require some creative thinking and projecting, Knecht takes the guesswork out it. He is a rock-solid shooting guard with shades of Michael Redd (optimistic) and Corey Kispert (realistic) to his game.

On a scale from 1-10, Knecht’s productivity is a 9.

Fatal Flaws

Dalton Knecht was born on April 19, 2001. Here are some current NBA players born in 2001: Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley. 2002: Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Alperen Sengun, Brandon Miller.

You get the idea.

Knecht will be 23 years old the day he first puts on an NBA jersey. What you see right now is likely what you will be getting for the majority of his rookie contract. The risk is lower, but so is the potential growth curve.

Knecht has also shown some struggles when defended by NBA-level length and athleticism. He has only played one year of SEC-level basketball, and while he was extraordinary in many of those games, his worst outings came against Mississippi State (3-6, 8 points in a blowout loss), NC State (1-7, 2 points in 19 minutes), and Kansas (4-17 shooting in a 9-point loss). Athletes with equal length/bounce can force Knecht off his spots. It’s fair to point out that he also had several monster games against top opponents, as well – several 30+-point outbursts against top SEC defenses, the 37 he posted in a tough loss to Purdue in the tourney – but it is something scouts and front offices are monitoring.

Defensively, Knecht will have to prove he can hold up against NBA talent. He is a physical, hard-nosed rebounder, but his biggest adjustment from college to the pros will be navigating screens and staying in front of the NBA’s predatory wing scorers. If he can’t, his offensive skillset might not be enough to save him.

On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Knecht’s defensive limitations rate at a 9.

Pre-NBA Setting

Knecht’s rise to potential lottery status is about as unlikely as anyone’s in this draft. From a sub-6-foot high schooler in suburban Denver to a junior college star to a mid-major to the SEC, Knecht proves that NBA talent can come from anywhere, provided you take advantage of an enormous growth spurt along the way.

Knecht transformed himself from a jitterbug point guard with deep shooting range into a rock-solid wing with hops over the last 5-6 years, all while maintaining his guard skills.

Last season, Knecht filled his trophy case with every conceivable award – SEC Player of the Year, First Team All-American, conference Newcomer of the Year, the Julius Erving Award (nation’s best small forward), and a terrific showing in the NCAA Tournament before the Volunteers bowed out to Purdue in the Elite Eight.

On a scale from 1-10, Knecht’s long and winding pre-NBA career rates at an 8.5.

Ideal NBA Ecosystem

Given his age and his NBA-ready game, Knecht provides significantly more value to a team that has its sights set on competing right away. Cross off the Pistons, the Trail Blazers, the Wizards, and the Hornets.

Even though the Spurs won only 22 games last year, I’m of the opinion that they are ready to compete much sooner than a typical 22-win team, given what we expect to see from Victor Wembanyama. If the preferred playmakers are off the board at this point, Knecht at 8 makes a lot of sense.

The likeliest fit is Utah at No. 10. The Jazz won 31 games and could sneak their way into the play-in conversation behind Lauri Markkanen. Knecht would come into the league 2.5 years older than their other emerging wing star, Keyonte George – I like how their games complement one another.

Elsewhere in the lottery, Knecht is exactly the kind of player Sam Presti tends to target – a shoot/pass/dribble standout with a knack for making big plays. Don’t expect to see Knecht fall below Oklahoma City at No. 12.

On a scale from 1-10, Knecht’s situational independence is an 8.5. He comes into the league ready to play from day one – he just needs a team that ready to compete.


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