Hot Take: Nathan Knight Deserves More NBA Playing Time

Yes, you read that headline correctly; we at the WMSB are willing to say here what W&M basketball legend Nathan Knight probably isn’t willing to say publicly: he deserves more playing time.

Knight has the talent to at least be a rotational player in the NBA, but teams seem unwilling to promote him to the role. Don’t believe he’s shown that he deserves it? Let’s dive a little deeper.

Since Nathan joined the NBA back in 2020, we have consistently checked box scores after each and every game (he’s now been on both the Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves), to check his playing time. Suffice to say, we have not been impressed with how the Hawks or T-Wolves have utilized him. But enough complaining, it’s time for us to state our case.

Knight’s Time with the Atlanta Hawks

Knight joined the Atlanta Hawks in 2020 after signing a two-way contract with the team. He dressed for every game and made the most of the playing time he was given. In fact, in games in which he was given significant playing time (we define this as 20+ minutes), Knights averaged: 14.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. Is this starting to sound like an NBA player to you?…Still not convinced?

Alright then, let’s take a look at a collection of Nate’s highlights from his time in Atlanta. If the stats above, coupled with the highlights below, don’t convince you — nothing will.

Knight’s Time with the Minnesota Timberwolves

After just one season with the Atlanta Hawks, he decided to sign a two way contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves this past offseason. We originally thought he made the move to receive additional playing time — especially since he was moving from a team in the Hawks, who had just made the Eastern Conference Finals, to a team that was 23-49 in the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But little did Knight know he would actually receive less playing time with the T-Wolves this season; to date, he’s averaging just 7.2 minutes per game — even less than he received with the Hawks, where he averaged 8.5 minutes. Even worse, Knight has dressed for almost every game with the Timberwolves this season; however, and now with the T-Wolves actually in the playoffs, Nathan Knight is not even dressed…even though the Timberwolves are dressing 15 players a night. Just how did Nate perform for the Timeberwolves this season, you ask?

Nathan Knight 2021-22 Season

Similar to his time in Atlanta, Nathan Knight was never really given significant, sustainable playing minutes. But let’s look at his averages in the two games where Nathan was given more than 20 minutes of playing time. In those 2 contests, he averaged 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists — nearly averaging a double-double in those games. And with flair, might we add.

Now let’s take it one step further: in his first career NBA start (with the T-Wolves), against the Celtics on December 27th, Knight posted a double-double while dropping 20 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, a block, and a steal in a win. Does this sound like an NBA player that deserves a paltry 7 minutes a game? Don’t forget, in the last game of the season for the Timberwolves, and with just 16 minutes of playing time, Knight scored 17 points while adding 8 rebounds and 3 assists.

At one point during the season, we put out a tweet saying the Timberwolves should give Knight more playing time. We received a few responses from Minnesota fans, who said that Knight was a good player, but that the Timberwolves had Karl Anthony-Towns (KAT) and Naz Reid in front of him. We aren’t here to argue that Nathan Knight is KAT, a player who averages almost 25 points per game and 10 rebounds in the league. However, the same can’t be said for Naz Reid.

Naz Reid, like Knight, was undrafted. He stands at 6’9″ 264 pounds, compared to Knight at 6’10” and 253 pounds. As you can see, the two players are very similar in structure. But what does Reid’s production look like compared to Knight’s?

This season, Reid averaged 15.8 minutes of playing time, averaging 8.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Doing some quick math, he averaged about .53 points per minute. Now, lets take a look at Nathan Knight’s production.
In just 7.2 minutes of average playing time per game this season, Nathan averaged 3.7 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game. That puts him at about .51 points per minute, just under the .53 per season Naz Reid produces.

But we’re splitting hairs with that; let’s take the comparison another step deeper.

Player Efficiency Rating

Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a rating of a player’s per-minute productivity. PER takes into account field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals, and negative results, such as missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls. The formula adds positive stats and subtracts negative ones through a statistical point value system. The key point is, the rating for each player is then adjusted to a per-minute basis so that, for example, substitutes can be compared with starters in playing time debates

The league average for PER is 15. How does Nathan Knight compare to Naz Reid? You guessed it, his is better. Nathan Knights Player Efficiency Rating is 18.9, while Naz Reids is 17.27. How does Knight’s 18.9 PER compare to the rest of the Timberwolves team? See the below.

Nathan Knight is third on the team in player efficiency rating. Again, we should point out that we aren’t suggesting Nathan Knight is the third best player on the Minnesota Timberwolves. We are simply calling out the obvious point that Nathan Knight deserves more playing time in the NBA. He’s not even dressed for playoff games? Just wow. The Timberwolves are dressing fifteen players this postseason, many of whom aren’t even listed in the screenshot above…but they somehow deserve to be dressed more than Nathan Knight? Yeah, we’re not buying it.

Salary Comparison

Let’s compare one last thing — because this part is comical and will probably make you laugh: Naz Reid is currently on a 4-year contract worth $6,129,593 with an average annual salary of $1,532,398 per year. How much does Nathan Knight make, you ask? Well, Nathan signed a 2-way contract this past offseason with the Timberwolves, currently valued at $462,269 this seasaon. Now, $462,269 is nothing to snuff about, but for some perspective, the minimum salary in the 2021-2022 NBA season was just under $1 million dollars at $925,000. And he’s making pennies compared to Reid…again, how does this make sense?

Conclusion

Is it because Naz Reid went to LSU and Nathan Knight went to W&M? More than likely, yes. But we don’t have the answers; all we know is, we are downright sick of Nathan Knight not getting the respect he deserves in the NBA. The fact that he is not even dressed for the NBA playoffs after dressing all season for the Timberwolves is ridiculous and deserves to be called out.

We don’t know what the future holds for Nathan Knight in the NBA, but we hope this article proves that he is not getting the respect he deserves and that he deserves to be given a shot as a rotational player in the NBA. The talent is there, he just needs to be given a shot.

LET’S GO TRIBE.

2 thoughts on “Hot Take: Nathan Knight Deserves More NBA Playing Time

  1. I’ve wondered why Knight does play more. When I see a box score it is always positive and saw where he scored 17 the other night. Maybe if he had been in the game the Timberwolves would be 3-2 in the playoffs with Memphis instead of 2-3. They blew a 13 point 4th quarter lead to lose, Memphis driving for a layup with 1 sec left.

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