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Dalton Knecht Struggles Shooting in Summer League Opener, Records 12 Points as Starter

Dalton Knecht
Tennessee G Dalton Knecht selected by the Los Angeles Lakers. Photo via Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

Former Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht made his debut on an NBA court Saturday for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 17th overall pick in the 2024 draft recorded 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting, two rebounds, and four assists in 26 minutes during the game as the Lakers opened the summer league with a 108-94 loss to the Sacramento Kings. The game lasted for 40 minutes with four ten-minute quarters.

Knecht was the starting wing for the Lakers on Saturday, playing alongside Bronny James Jr., Florida’s Colin Castleton, and Missouri’s Sean East II.

The Kings won the opening tip-off but didn’t possess the ball very long. Knecht was in the middle of a fumble by the Kings’ offense on the first possession and relayed a pass halfway up the court in transition for the basket. After just a few seconds on an NBA court, the 6-foot-6 guard had recorded the first steal and assist of the game.

When settled down in half-court offense, Knecht primarily hung out in the corner, popping up on off-ball screens from time to time. Knecht’s first two shot attempts hit the rim and bounced out of the basket, the first from three-point range and the second on a pull-up drive from the corner of the free-throw line.

Knecht had a bit of a welcome-to-the-NBA moment in the first few minutes when he was called for a defensive three-second violation, a rule that is not used at the collegiate level. The rule states that a player in the 16-foot lane must be actively guarding an offensive player within three seconds.

With 2:19 left in the first quarter, Knecht drove to the paint and picked up a foul. The former Vol missed the first attempt but hit the second for his first points at the NBA level.

More from RTI: ‘He’s a Bucket’: Dalton Knecht Draws Praise from Former NBA Players

A pleasant surprise for Tennessee fans tuning in to see Knecht was an appearance from former Vol Yves Pons on the Kings roster. Pons and Knecht ended up matching up against each other for a few quick seconds but nothing that lasted long. Knecht was taken out of the game after just one minute on the court with Pons after playing the first nine minutes of the quarter.

Pons is playing in his fourth summer league circuit and most recently played in the Spanish Liga ACB during the 2023 season.

Knecht sat for much of the second quarter but returned to the game at the 5:11 mark.

Just a few seconds into his second run on the court, Knecht had a nice drive while handling the ball on the wing. Knecht made his move when going to the baseline and put up the jump shot but it missed short. Knecht rallied to the ball and grabbed his own miss, throwing it back out to the perimeter to reset the possession.

Knecht handled the ball and found his way to the top of the key more often in the second quarter but it was evident that both teams hadn’t been practicing for very long. The game resembled more of a pickup game with the lack of fully functioning sets.

Knecht’s offense turned to more drives in the second quarter as he did in one play that resulted in an open look for Bronny James on the perimeter that didn’t go in.

With a minute and a half remaining in the first half, Knecht found himself open behind the arc in the corner after a two-man game set him up without a defender. Knecht caught the pass and knocked down a three-pointer for his first made field goal from the floor.

More from RTI: Analysis: What Dalton Knecht Brings to the Lakers

Knecht had another look late in the half coming off of a Castleton screen with a pull-up at the free-throw line but missed it short. The former SEC rivals linked up a few possessions later when Knecht recorded an assist on a Castleton cut to the hoop.

The former Vol finished the first half just 1-for-7 from the floor with four points on a three-pointer and one free throw. Knecht also recorded one rebound, three assists, and one steal in 13 minutes in the half.

Knecht’s struggles shooting from the field continued in the second half as he went 2-of-5 in the final 20 minutes.

Knecht missed a wide-open three-pointer just two minutes into the second half and missed another jump shot just a few minutes later. While the shot wasn’t dropping, though, Knecht still remained active on the defensive end and crashing the glass offensively.

Knecht went to the foul line more in the second half but overall finished just 5-of-9 from the stripe. The former Vol was a 79 percent free throw shooter during his collegiate career and shot 77 percent from the line at Tennessee.

Dalton Knecht did eclipse the double-digit mark during the game with 12 points but struggled to hit his shots on the court. But while the shooting was off during his debut on Saturday, it didn’t look to be because of nerves or that he was getting bullied around physically. These are mostly college players and two-way players in the summer league, after all.

Knecht was able to get similar shots than he did at Tennessee, using a similar method of getting open or finding a shot. Knecht had several drives to the basket while pulling up for the jump shot at the mid-range and found space behind the three-point line to get off a shot. It was as simple as just missing shots on Saturday afternoon.

With only 97 days passed since his final game at Tennessee and only 10 days since the draft, there hasn’t been a ton of coaching happening before the start of the summer league. And with the shots that he was getting on Saturday and the inevitable coaching and cohesiveness that will come throughout the month, there’s no reason to believe this wasn’t just an off night.

Knecht ended the game with 12 points on 3-12 shooting and went 1-4 from three-point range and 5-9 from the free-throw line. Knecht also tallied two rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 26 minutes during the contest. Yves Pons recorded zero points and one rebound in 14 minutes of action for the Kings.

The Kings defeated Knecht’s Lakers 108-94 on Saturday. Knecht will take on former teammate Santiago Vescovi and the Golden State Warriors in their second Summer League game on Sunday night.

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