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Wolves 91, Spurs 89: Midsummer League Knight’s Dream

Nathan Knight & Jaden McDaniels shine as the Wolves open summer league 1-0.

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Minnesota Timberwolves basketball is BACK.

Well, Las Vegas Summer League that is. As Kyle mentioned in his Summer League preview, we planned to see a lot of Jaylen Nowell and Jaden McDaniels in these early games. That’s exactly what we got in game 1. Nowell and Big Mac combined for 42 on 16/33 shooting. It was a spirited contest which included a 2nd quarter 17-2 Wolves run on the back of Nowell 3’s and my new favorite Timberwolves big man, Nathan Knight, who capped it off with a big dunk to demolish the right rim.

Despite building a cushiony double-digit lead in the first half, Devin Vassell and Tre Jones eviscerated it in the 2nd half. They each took turns bending the Wolves defense to their wills by going on personal 7-0 and 10-0 runs. The final 10-minute quarter of the game would be vintage summer league ball featuring classic “tough shot making” with multiple lead changes. As a usual attendee of LVSL, I was truly getting FOMO watching this from home as you could feel the buzz in the crowd throughout the entire 4th.

The fate of the game ended on some final key possessions, which I’m going to purposefully leaving out an extremely dangerous clear path foul in which Nate Renfro, who was on the ground, reached out and grabbed Jaden’s shoe by the heel which nearly caused disaster *knocks on wood*. With the game knotted up at 89, all you had to do was take a look on the court to realize: The freaks come out at Knight.

With one shot to tie or win the game, the Wolves backcourt of McKinley Wright and Jaylen Nowell teamed up to deny Tre Jones a clear look and resulted in a wild 3 that never hit the rim.

If you’re you like me and haven’t had enough Nathan Knight content yet? Then you should absolutely read Tyler Metcalf’s great piece on the new savior of the Wolves here.

Game Highlights

Game Notes

  • Again, how great was Nathan Knight? Despite committing a mindboggling 7 fouls (and 1 technical!) in 24 minutes, many of the questionable variety, he was certainly my favorite player to watch tonight. His physical presence was felt in the paint all evening, for better or worse. He posted 19 points, 9 rebounds (5 offensive!), 2 assists, 2 stocks, and even 1 three pointer.
  • Jaden McDaniels was unleashed tonight. He was all over the court, but unlike we’re used to seeing, most notably on offense. Big Mac was an efficient 18 points on 7/13 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, earning my MVP honors. His ballhandling was on display with some beautiful dimes and moves. Behold, the future of the NBA:
  • Shoutout to Jaylen Nowell for his confident play. Never shy as a gunslinger, Nowell put up a game-high 20 shot attempts tonight. Although he splashed in 3 three pointers, we got more of the point-Nowell experiment with mixed results. The final stat line of 4 assists and 3 turnovers were pretty accurate of what I saw tonight. Hoping to see him develop more control out there as summer league progresses.
  • Everything I expected from McKinley Wright IV, I got tonight. He was a sturdy presence as the 1 guard and rarely made mistakes. Wright’s undersized physique certainly didn’t matchup with what I saw on the court. He made his presence on defense known all Knight night, as he swiped 5 steals in his battle with former Minnesota high school rival, Tre Jones. He also finished with 8 points on 4/4 shooting with just 1 turnover. He is certainly the Wolves best option as the 3rd (or 2nd?) PG today.
  • I mentioned earlier that Knight destroyed the right rim? Well, Isaiah Miller evened things out by cramming this one-handed Thor’s hammer of a dunk on the left side rim. The quick fan-favorite finished with just 9 points, 5 rebounds (3 offensive!), and 2 steals, but his energy was infectious all night. His point of attack defending, paired with McKinley Wright, was a sight to behold. I’m not sure Miller will make the final roster as a 6’ guard who doesn’t seem quite capable of truly running point, but he’s extremely exciting and I know I’m rooting for him hard.
  • Anthony Edwards. That’s all you need to know.
  • Oh, and let me share one of my favorite moments from the evening. This, in my opinion, incapsulates Jaden McDaniels personality.

Up Next:

Minnesota takes on the Chicago Bulls on early on Thursday 8/12 at 3:00 CT. The Bulls, who gave up their top 2021 draft pick in the Nikola Vucevic deal, will trot out CH favorites Patrick Williams, Tyler Bey, Ayo Dosunmu, and former Timberwolves great, Omari Spellman.