Dalton Knecht slipped into the perfect fit at No. 17 and could be the steal of the NBA draft

After a legendary season playing for Rick Barnes at Tennessee, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Dalton Knecht No. 17 overall in the 2024 NBA Draft.
2024 NBA Draft - Round One
2024 NBA Draft - Round One / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

Maybe the Los Angeles Lakers did want to take Bronny James in the first round, but when Dalton Knecht started free-falling down the draft board on Wednesday night, the lethal shooter was too enticing for general manager Rob Pelinka and newly minted head coach J.J. Reddick to pass up. The Lakers grabbed Knecht with the 17th overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft and while the former JUCO transfer has reason to feel slighted again, like when he transferred to Tennessee, he landed in the perfect spot. 

Knecht had no offers coming out of high school, but after shooting up to 6-foot-6 and transferring to use his final year of eligibility in the SEC, Knecht became the SEC Player of the Year and went toe-to-toe with back-to-back Naismith Player of the Year Zach Edey in the Elite Eight. Yet, Edey went No. 9 overall to the Memphis Grizzlies while Knecht slipped out of the lottery. 

Still, at 17, Knecht is the highest-drafted Vol since Marcus Haislip went No. 13 to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2002. He could also be the most impactful former Tennessee Volunteer in the NBA next season. Grant Williams has faded into obscurity after a big contract with the Dallas Mavericks and being traded to Charlotte and neither Jaden Springer nor Keon Johnson have done much since being selected in the first round in 2021 and 2022 respectively. 

He’s 23 years old, but age isn’t the only reason that Knecht could hit the ground running. Beyond having a former movement three-point shooter as his new head coach, Knecht will also get to play off Lebron James and Anthony Davis (assuming Lebron re-signs to finish his career in LA). 

Lebron has a long history of maximizing players like Knecht who just need an inch of space to get off a shot off. Still one of the best passers in the league, Lebron will routinely get Knecht involved, not just to develop a young player but because the Lakers have plateaued since the 2020 NBA title and Knecht could be the player to raise the team’s ceiling. 

Rick Barnes needed instant offense when he convinced Knecht to come to Knoxville, and now Lebron needs the same thing out in LA, only this time, once Knecht started falling down the draft board, there was no recruiting necessary. The Lakers may have gotten the steal of the draft and finally, it might be the last time Knecht gets overlooked.