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How high is the ceiling for Karl-Anthony Towns?

While the Minnesota Timberwolves will likely fall short of making the NBA playoffs for the 13 consecutive season, there is one positive fans can hang their hat on going forward; center Karl-Anthony Towns took an enormous  leap forward in becoming a bonafide NBA superstar.

In his sophomore season with the Timberwolves, Towns is averaging 24.6 points per game and 12.1 rebounds per game. Those raw numbers put him amongst the elite big men in the NBA this season.

Player

Points per Game

Rebounds per Game

Karl-Anthony Towns

24.6

12.1

Demarcus Cousins

26.4

10.8

Anthony Davis

27.9

11.9

Marc Gasol

19.9

6.3

In addition to his counting statistics, Towns is shooting a stellar 53.5 percent from the floor which is better than all of his peers mentioned in the above table.

So now what? Has Towns officially arrived and become a household name as one of the best centers in the NBA? The short answer to the question is “yes.” There is no doubt Towns has forced his way into that conversation with his play this season. His athleticism and offensive versatility are eye-popping as he is regularly converting from beyond the three point line and is finishing with authority at the rim.

However, the truth is Towns is merely scratching the surface of his real potential. Towns’ upside points more towards the potential of being the best center in the NBA and considered a top five overall player, compared to how fans view him today.

One of the main reasons Towns can reach an elite level of NBA superstardom is how much better he could afford to be on the defensive side of the floor. While a vague and somewhat general criticism, there is no hiding just how awful Towns has been on defense this season. Towns has been one of the league’s worst rim protectors allowing 35.4 points per game in the painted area, which is the most among qualified centers. Also, Towns has an abysmal defensive rating of 110.2 per 100 defensive possessions. Below is how Towns compares to the same players above defensively.

Player

Opponent Points in the Paint Defensive Rating

Karl-Anthony Towns

35.4

110.2

Demarcus Cousins

27.5

108.6

Anthony Davis

31.8

102.3

Marc Gasol 26.5

105.3

On the offensive end of the floor, there may not look like there is much room for improvement as Towns is scoring at will amongst the best centers in the NBA. However, most of Towns scoring is coming when he is facing the basket. 47 percent of Towns’ shot attempts are jump shots compared to the 39 percent which are layups and dunks.

Due to his skill set, Towns may never be used as a predominate back to the basket, post up center. Towns has many other strengths he can utilize, but refining his back to the basket play is an area he can improve to add another wrinkle to his offensive game. This season many of Towns’ moves around the rim look awkward and unbalanced as if his will to score outweighs his skill in post-up scenarios.

Considering how great Towns already is and how much room he has to improve, it is downright scary to think of what he may become. There is no reason Towns can’t become an elite defender. He has the length, athleticism and most importantly, Towns seems to possess the desire to be great. The majority of Towns’ best performances tend to come against other perineal centers in the NBA. In reality, the most logical explanation for Towns’ defensive metrics is the Timberwolves weak perimeter defense.

Opponents have gotten to the rim with ease this season and have put Towns in awkward positions to help on defense. As for his offensive game, Towns is still raw. While he may not have the most refined post game, his shooting percentage is astonishing considering the number of jump shots he takes. If Towns puts it all together, he could be a future MVP candidate sooner rather than later.

 

Logan Metzger is a contributor to HowlinTwolf.com. Follow him on Twitter:@loganmetzger33