Most people probably didn’t have any thoughts when the Minnesota Timberwolves signed Nathan Knight to a two-way deal. Many still probably have no strong feelings one way or the other about him and whether or not the Timberwolves should bring him back.
After all, there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Knight to play. The young big played only 267 minutes and most of those were in one big spurt without the stars or during garbage time. He was raw and had some negatives, but there was also a lot of positives the young, explosive forward can build upon.
Nate Knight spent two games in the G-League, one regular season and one preseason game, mostly played in garbage time, and his only real consistent run of minutes game during the COVID Wolves era. In the G-League he played loose and dominated in a way that showed he didn’t belong there and was an NBA guy, He scored 31 and 33 in each of those games. His athleticism stood out like a diamond in the rough as he got to the rim with ease.
While we wait, Leandro Bolmaro and Nathan Knight straight powered Iowa over the Blue earlier this after noon. Knight bullied the ball all game. Dude's a physical force. Leo went ballistic at the end to put it away— Key Sang (@Phantele_) March 5, 2022
Knight: 33-12 and 4 blks
Bolmaro: 21-14-9, 2 stls, 2 blks pic.twitter.com/i3d7TO5TGa
Nathan Knight also had an excellent game for Iowa. 31 points, 13 rebounds, 4-9 from 3, +20. Knocked down his long shots, everything else was layups or dunks. Crazy combo of speed and power. Potentially offers the Wolves a dimension they don't have right now pic.twitter.com/nJqzEgk2TY— Key Sang (@Phantele_) November 8, 2021
Unfortunately the Timberwolves were paper thin when it came to big man depth so they didn’t let Knight leave for Iowa much. Due to that, the vast majority of the time Knight played for the Timberwolves was garbage time. If there was an anti-Cleaning the Glass site (dirtying the glass?) that only measured garbage time I would comfortably bet that Knight would lead the league in dunks, fouls committed, and fouls drawn. In garbage time minutes, he showed that he wasn’t just bullying G-League bigs, his athleticism, speed, and strength was an NBA level and he could bang with the rest of them and be a good option as a roll-man/lob threat. Something Minnesota sorely needs.
As mentioned earlier, there was really only one consistent stretch of minutes for Knight this season. At the end of 2021/beginning of 2022 COVID spread through the Timberwolves. Fortunately everyone came back healthy without too many issues. During that stretch we got to see Knight going from a DNP/Inactive to seeing how many minutes he could play without getting into foul trouble.
The former William and Mary star in that stretch averaged 7.1 points on 51.4% shooting (33.3% from 3) and 4.9 rebounds in 18.0 minutes per game. During this stretch, Knight was surprisingly solid at defending the pick and roll as well as handling switches. He continued showing his potential as a pick and roll partner for the ball handlers on the Wolves too. Towards the end of the COVID Wolves era there was even a point where Wolves fans were pushing for him to take Naz Reid’s spot in the rotation (Naz was going through a cold streak).
There was one glaring weakness every time Knight played. He fouled too much. It’s clear that he was raw and needed to get adjusted to the NBA setting and whistle. You can’t fault him too much because he was usually called for playing engaged and tough defense or being switched onto a guard (and more often than not doing an admirable job) but if he ever hopes to have a consistent NBA role the fouling needs to go way down.
The main other negative is just a general one being that he’s just a raw player. I’ve always liked the idea of comparing him to rookie Naz Reid. There is a lot to like and significant potential; but he just needs time to develop and time to get through his growing pains. Minnesota is a tough team to have that happen on as the path to minutes (pending a shakeup) is very hard for Knight, especially without a consistent 3-point shot.
The Boston Celtics game that the COVID Wolves won. Knight went 8-11, hit both of his three point shots, had 11 rebounds, four assists, and 20 points in a game that featured both Robert Williams and Al Horford for Boston. Minnesota wasn’t supposed to win that game but Nathan’s dominant (k)night helped power the Wolves over the Celtics in what was a wonderful exhibition of the great parts of his game.
Projected Role Moving Forward
If Knight is brought back (currently set to be a restricted free agent), his role likely wouldn’t change too much. He’d be the emergency big and his only realistic chance at getting a permanent role would be impressing in garbage time ala Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaden McDaniels, injuries, or whoever that is in front of him disappointing.
The role he’d play is as a big lineup power forward. Think of a better fitting power forward in the Reid and Karl-Anthony Towns lineup. Either that or as the backup center. He’d be used sort of like a poor man’s Montrezl Harrell but play better defense.
Summer School Assignment
Knight, Towns, McDaniels, and Reid need to attend the school of how not to foul. Not sure who the teacher is, probably Patrick Beverley (that would be a good chuckle to watch), but the Wolves really need him to be able to stay on the floor if he’s going to play.