Knight taking an analytical approach to career, and the Wolves

Knight taking an analytical approach to career, and the Wolves

LAS VEGAS — At William & Mary, Nathan Knight studied business analytics.

After graduating, Knight entered the business of basketball, a field ripe with analytics that look at every aspect of the game, from shot selection to fatigue to in-game strategy.

After playing with Atlanta last season, Knight is entering his second season trying to carve out his niche in the league with the Timberwolves, and playing smart is just as important for him as playing hard.

“[Analytics] helped me grow a lot faster than I would have if I stepped away from that when I walked away from college,” Knight said. “The biggest thing with the analytic side of basketball is this idea of obviously being efficient but being sustainable. If you’re a sustainable team, you do things that not only are efficient, but are sustainable throughout a whole 82-game season and playoffs. It gives you the best chance to win.”

Knight is emblematic of the modern NBA in that way. Players are coming into the league now with a more analytical mind-set. For instance, Wolves center Naz Reid has said he hated taking mid-range jumpers, a low efficiency shot, even before he came to the NBA and learned just how inefficient they are.

“You’re going to see a lot more players as they grow up in this era of analytics and social media, they’re going to enter the league and see it as a pretty important piece of their game and they’re going to start to shape their game,” Wolves summer league coach Jeff Newton said.

At 6-10, Knight can fight for minutes on a team looking for depth at the power forward position — and has had players like Reid who went undrafted get significant minutes.

Knight played in 33 games for the Hawks last season (averaging 3.8 points), and he learned to not play at warp speed even as the NBA games moves fast around him. On Friday, he scored seven points as the Wolves beat the Milwaukee Bucks 91-64 in an NBA summer league game.

“A lot of young guys, I’m sure they know the game moves about a mile a minute when you’re out there,” Knight said. “You’re deer in the headlights. For me, I just try to do my best to slow the game down, run things at my own speed.”

Knight prides himself on defense and as a big man he learned “you’re probably the defensive anchor most of the time.”

“Being a communicator, being a nuisance on the defensive, it’s something I prided myself on and ingrained in my mind that’s going to keep me on the court,” Knight said.

Newton added Knight is “super fun, he’s super outgoing, super friendly, he’s got a little wittiness to him.”

“So, that just kind of makes him, enjoyable for the coaching staff to be around for his teammates and then on the court, there’s a lot that he can do as a basketball player,” Newton said. “[Can play the] four or five, an athletic, rugged rim roller, rim runner. He can just do a lot of different things.”

And Knight tries to be as efficient as he can doing all those different things.

“Defensively it’s a lot easier because it’s a lot of intangible things you can’t control, but on offense the game is super imperfect,” Knight said. “A lot of things can be happening as the shot goes up and for me it’s just trying to get the best shot possible, running the offense the best I can to get the best shots.”

Three in a row for Wolves

Jaylen Nowell scored 26 points and the Timberwolves held the Bucks to 28% shooting as they continued their perfect start in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League with a 91-64 win.

Nowell, who was taken in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft, shot 11-for-22 from the field to go along with six rebounds, three assists and two steals for the 3-0 Timberwolves. Jaden McDaniels added 17 points — on 7-for-12 shooting — to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

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