Summer League is in full swing, team workouts are on the horizon, and regular-season basketball will be here before you know it. The big free agents were nearly all off the board on Day 1, and teams with roster flexibility were quick to make trades. However, the Wolves mostly stood pat after an injury-ravaged season.
They offered a pair of two-way deals to former Atlanta Hawks PF/C Nathan Knight and Champlin Park native McKinley Wright. These two pickups could end up being significant, though. Knight has NBA experience with the Hawks this past season, and Wright was projected as a second-rounder who turned down offers to be selected, allowing him to decide his own fate in free agency and come home on a two-way deal.
Setting the Table
Nathan Knight measured in at 6’8”, 235 lbs at last year’s combine. He is seen as a small-ball center but has the ability to play power forward.
He was a starter in three of his four seasons at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and touted an impressive 20.1 points per game on 55.8% shooting as a starter. This translated immediately to the NBA, and he earned a two-way opportunity with the Hawks. He showed the majority of his upside this past season when they had a depleted roster due to injuries and a dysfunctional first half under Lloyd Pierce before he was fired.
A skilled player above the rim, Knight is a capable dunker and rebounder. He has sound shooting mechanics but converted on a low percentage from three this past season (18.2%). He could immediately help Minnesota’s spacing if he can keep defenses honest from the corner.
Conversely, Wright measured 5’11” in shoes at this year’s combine, something that typically would not excite the Wolves faithful, given that they already have undersized guard Jordan McLaughlin on the roster. But Wright has a 6’5” wingspan that dovetails with his defensive instincts.
Wright is the all-time assist leader at Colorado, indicating that he was a team leader in Boulder. He started immediately as a freshman and never came off the bench, becoming a consistent player and leading the Buffaloes to three 20-win seasons in four years.
He’s a traditional point guard who will not score a ton but can drive offense if the game comes his way. He will set up his teammates for good looks and has a strong defensive work ethic. His high motor and maturity at his position make him a steal for an undrafted player. He’s someone worth taking a low-risk shot on.
Guaranteed Contract Potential
Gersson Rosas has always had a knack for finding low-cost fits for his teams. Naz Reid is a prime example of this. After the 2019 draft, he signed Naz to a two-way deal, only to have that turned into a four-year deal with non-guaranteed future years 13 days later.
This is a blueprint Rosas could use for Knight or Wright. The Wolves have holes at the backup point guard spot and power forward and could use another athletic big. This is where either of the two would fill in depth.
Playing Time and Flexibility
Of the two players, Knight stands out as the player who could easily receive a Nowell/Reid deal: two to four years for a low, escalating contract with lots of team control. His NBA talent gives him a head start over Wright. He could have an impact against teams off the bench, whether that is based on matchups or the team being down players.
Wright is more likely to follow the McLaughlin path. J-Mac spent an entire year with the Brooklyn Nets’ G-league affiliate before spending two seasons on a two-way deal with the Wolves. He’s now a restricted free agent, waiting on a new deal. He saw action in 81 games the past two years, receiving 18.9 minutes per game, which is not common for borderline NBA talent — a good sign of what the future could hold for either of the current two-way Wolves.
Considering the Wolves ‘ salary scenario, having players on the bottom of the depth chart that could have a future tied up in his contract is very important. Still, having the flexibility to cut these players and not have future costs could be an ideal pathway to keep money in order.
While the Wolves haven’t been particularly active in free agency, Rosas has made prudent, low-wattage moves with Knight and Wright, bringing in two high-ceiling, low-floor players with relatively little risk. It lines up perfectly for this young roster as we move closer to a new season.