Dalton Knecht Faces Early Challenges in California Classic

Dalton Knecht Faces Early Challenges in California Classic

The Los Angeles Lakers' rookie Dalton Knecht has found himself struggling to find his rhythm during the California Classic. Despite high expectations, Knecht’s performance has faltered over the last two days, leaving fans and coaches alike eager to see if he can turn things around.

The Lakers fell to the Golden State Warriors 92-68 on Sunday, marking their second defeat in the event. Knecht, the No. 17 overall pick from the 2024 NBA Draft, managed to score 12 points on just 3-of-13 shooting in his 22 minutes of play. This performance followed another challenging outing on Saturday, where he finished 3-of-12 from the floor. Through his first two summer league games, Knecht is a mere 2-of-15 on jumpers, a concerning 13.3% accuracy.

Despite these early struggles, Knecht has shown promise in other areas. He managed to get to the free-throw line 14 times across the two games and has converted 4-of-8 shots at the rim. These flashes of potential have not gone unnoticed by Lakers’ summer league coach, Dane Johnson. “Just being patient with it. It's a long summer league. It's going to come. He's a great player, so I'm not worried about him missing some of the shots he's taking. He's a great shooter. Let the game come to him. There are some [flashes] where you see that he's got it.”

In his final collegiate season at Tennessee, Knecht was a formidable scorer, averaging 21.7 points per game. His prowess on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers was particularly noteworthy, hitting 42.3% according to Synergy Sports. This track record contributed to Knecht being a consensus top-10 pick leading up to the draft before he slid out of the lottery on draft night.

Knecht himself has a pragmatic view of his early performances. “I haven't played since March. Just finding my rhythm again and keep playing with these new guys and keep adjusting. … Shooters shoot. My dad always told me the next shot is going in. Shooters shoot.” This confidence and self-belief will be vital as he navigates through the challenges of transitioning from college to the professional level.

The Lakers have one more game left in the California Classic against the Miami Heat on Wednesday. This game will provide another opportunity for Knecht to showcase his skills and find his rhythm before the team heads to Las Vegas for the second leg of the summer league. The upcoming match will be a crucial moment for Knecht to build on the flashes of potential he has shown and to reinforce the belief that he can be a significant contributor to the Lakers’ future.

While the early numbers may not be in Knecht’s favor, it is essential to remember the context. The transition from college basketball to the NBA is steep, and many rookies face a learning curve. Knecht’s shooting struggles are part of the growing pains that many young players experience. The support from his coach and his own confidence are crucial elements that suggest better performances lie ahead.

In the grand scheme of his career, these initial summer league games are but a small chapter. The resilience and adaptability that Knecht shows in these moments will set the foundation for his professional journey. The Lakers’ coaching staff clearly sees the potential within him, and their patience and trust will be fundamental as he works through his current challenges.

As the summer league progresses, all eyes will be on Dalton Knecht to see if he can harness his collegiate success and translate it to the professional stage. It will be a test of mental fortitude as much as skill, and early indications suggest that Knecht is prepared for the journey ahead.

Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat will be another step in that journey, offering a fresh slate for Knecht to prove his mettle and align his performance with the expectations that accompanied his draft selection. For now, patience and perseverance remain the guiding principles for both Knecht and the Lakers as they navigate the early stages of his professional career.