The Hawks found a gem in Nathan Knight

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When the Hawks picked up Nathan Knight as an undrafted free agent, I actually received a text from a friend who played at College of Charleston that said something along the lines of, “Nathan Knight is an absolute stud.”

If you aren’t aware, William & Mary (Knight’s alma mater) and College of Charleston are both apart of the Colonial Athletic Association or CAA conference, meeting up twice a year, so naturally, I had to peak at the box scores of their matchups. And low and behold, Nathan Knight did indeed terrorize the Cougars.

Knight put up a casual 21 points and 13 boards in their first meeting, leading all scorers and rebounders by a large margin. In their next matchup, it was more of the same. William & Mary could only muster 50 points as a team, but Knight was responsible for 28 of them while also hauling in 18 rebounds.

That was par for the course of Knight’s entire collegiate career. From his sophomore through senior seasons, he averaged a smooth 20.1 points per game with 8.8 rebounds on over 55% shooting from the field, and while the step up in competition from the CAA to the NBA is quite substantial, Knight hasn’t missed a beat.

Early on, we saw flashes of Knight’s potential. He scored 14 points in just over eight minutes in the second game of the season, but for some reason, we didn’t see him much after that. Knight only appeared in eight of the Hawks’ next 35 games — most of which came in garbage time. However, he was forced into action last week with both Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu sidelined, and I think the days of him being left out of the rotation are in the rearview mirror.

In 22 minutes against the Cavs, Knight dropped 16 points, going 9-10 from the free-throw line, and hauled in 9 rebounds. The very next game, he tallied 15 points to go along with three rebounds. Capela and Okongwu were out for both of those matchups. However, they were back last night, and McMillan stuck to his word of utilizing Knight as the team’s backup center. He didn’t see quite as many minutes against the Thunder, but he still made the most of them, scoring four points with three rebounds while also affecting the game defensively.

Knight’s the kind of player that is just incredibly easy to root for. Beyond the fact that he is an undrafted free agent, the energy that he brings to the court on a nightly basis is contagious. He’s a bouncy 6’10” center that never stops moving when he’s on the floor. Not to mention, he’s due for at least one highlight dunk a night.

At the very least, it looks like Knight will carve out a long career for himself as backup big that can provide a ton of energy off the bench. However, there’s a chance he could end up being much more than that. He’s a tremendous defensive presence, extremely efficient offensively, a tenacious rebounder, and looks to be developing into a reliable three-point shooter. It’s a minuscule sample size, but Knight is shooting 38.5% from behind the arc this season. If that’s sustainable, he really could blossom into a starting-caliber player, and who knows, possibly even an All-Star.

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