LeBron James offers high praise for Los Angeles Lakers rookie Dalton Knecht

Dalton Knecht is facing high expectations entering his rookie season with the Lakers. LeBron James offered high praise for how Knecht's game translates.
2024 California Classic - Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings
2024 California Classic - Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Amidst a disheartening period of free agency, it's easy to forget that the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the big winners of the 2024 NBA Draft. Reigning SEC Player of the Year Dalton Knecht unexpectedly fell to No. 17 overall, thus enabling the Lakers to land the biggest steal of the first round.

As Lakers superstar LeBron James prepares to begin his latest stint with Team USA, he was inevitably asked for his thoughts on Los Angeles' marquee acquisition.

Knecht has an unenviable task ahead of him as he looks to make an instant impact for a Lakers team that has the immediate goal of winning another title. Franchise players James, 39, and Anthony Davis, 31, are All-NBA level talents looking to make the most of their remaining championship window.

Per Ben Golliver of The Washington Post, James offered high praise for Knecht and expressed his belief that his game should translate well to the NBA.

For those who can't see the video, James had the following to say about Knecht:

"Throughout the course of the college season, Dalton [Knecht], besides Bronny, was my favorite player in college basketball. I watched his game throughout the whole season. I just liked his ability to shoot the ball, his athleticism, his height, his demeanor that he played with. I've always kind of felt like his game would translate to the NBA. I did not think he would fall to 17. At all. So I didn't think we were going to have an opportunity to get him. I'm glad he did."

That's high praise from one of the greatest players to ever touch a basketball.

LeBron James believes Dalton Knecht can translate to the NBA

Knecht, 23, racked up a slew of awards during his sensational 2023-24 season. In addition to being named SEC Player of the Year, he won the Julius Erving Award that recognizes the top small forward in college basketball, and earned All-American First Team honors.

Knecht also led the Tennessee Volunteers to 27 wins and the school's first Elite Eight appearance since 2010.

Beyond the accolades, Knecht was one of the most prolific scorers in he country. His 21.7 points per game ranked eighth among all Division I men's players, and he consistently managed to raise his game in high-pressure situations.

Knecht scored 37 points in a clash with the North Carolina Tar Heels, dropped 39 in a win over the 27-8 Auburn Tigers, unleashed 40 on the Kentucky Wildcats, and put up 37 in the Elite Eight.

In Los Angeles, Knecht will have an opportunity to establish himself as a scoring threat once more. Head coach JJ Redick will likely lean on his shooting touch early on, which projects to translate after the incoming rookie knocked down 38.3 percent of his 569 attempts from beyond the arc between his three collegiate seasons.

The Lakers were efficient from beyond the arc, as well, in 2023-24, but ranked No. 24 in three-point field goals made and No. 28 in attempts.

Beyond his ability to convert spot-up jumpers, Knecht is an impressive athlete with the size, length, quickness, and explosiveness to get into the paint and cause havoc. That would certainly alleviate pressure from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, who would certainly benefit from a steadier pace to the regular season.

The question is: Can Knecht step up in the short-term to become the player the Lakers need him to be while Davis and James are still playing at a superstar level?