This offseason for the Minnesota Timberwolves has been one to remember. The blockbuster acquisition of three-time all-star and Olympic gold medalist Jimmy Butler, the signing of point guard Jeff Teague to a 3-year, $57-million dollar deal, and the signing of veteran grinder Taj Gibson to a 2-year, $28 million-dollar contract. More recently, 6th-man savant Jamal Crawford agreed to come to the Twin Cities to ball on a 2-year, $9 million dollar deal with a player option for the second year.
With additions come subtractions, as we had to say goodbye to longtime point guard Ricky Rubio in a trade with the Utah Jazz. We also saw Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and our 7th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft (Lauri Markkanen) shipped to Chicago in the Butler deal. Also gone from last years roster is Jordan Hill, Brandon Rush (unless re-signed), Omri Casspi, Nikola Pekovic, and Shabazz Muhammad, who was initially extended a qualifying offer only to see it rescinded to make room for the Gibson contract. He can be brought back if the two sides come to agreement on a deal.
With all these new moves, and possibly one or two more small ones yet to be made, the roster will be drastically different than the one we saw last season. With excitement and expectations at an all-time high for the organization, things will look and feel a lot different in Minnesota compared to recent years (Such as the last 13 without playoff basketball). But let’s not let all these new occurrences distract us from one of the most prized possessions in the entire NBA.
Although Butler is no-doubt a top-15 player, Towns has the brighter future, and the highest ceiling of anyone on this roster. The former number one overall pick is only 21 years old and already has established himself as one of the best big men in the game. When comparing his stats from the previous season to two of arguably the best young big men around, Anthony Davis (the more comparable skill set) and DeMarcus Cousins, Towns more than holds his own:
Cousins has certainly expanded his game to beyond the paint, but he is more of a bruiser compared to KAT and Davis, who both have solid range, agility, and low-post finishing ability all in big, elongated frames. One thing that separates Towns from Davis is durability. In the first three seasons of his career, Towns has missed zero games. Since his rookie season in 2012-13, Davis has missed a total of 51 games.
The lack of durability can derail any player’s career in any sport, just ask Ralph Sampson, or Greg Oden and Brandon Roy (sorry, Blazers fans). Three years in, and durability seems like a non-issue for KAT, and we Wolves fans should get on our knees and pray to the basketball gods that it remains that way.
Another aspect that makes Towns the true future of this franchise is the state of the NBA today. Pace and space is at the forefront, making big men of old virtually obsolete. It’s a good thing KAT is not your traditional big man. With the skills of an elite guard packaged into a 7’0” body, Towns also possesses the marksmanship to contend with the evolving NBA and its super teams loaded with shooters at what seems to be every position. This is evident in the season he just submitted, compiling a statline never before seen in the history of the NBA. 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 100 three-pointers in a single season. An impressive feat for a 21 year old.
One knock on KAT is his defensive game. Coming out of Kentucky, Towns was expected to anchor an elite defensive group fairly early in his career. So far, that hasn’t happened, but the tools are all there. He has good timing and length, and the motor to put it all together. But discipline and understanding of team defense need upgrades for him to truly become a two-way superstar. Coach Tom Thibodeau should aid this process nicely, as should playing with Gibson and Butler.
Another aspect that you find in your true franchise player is fan likeability. Often, you see Towns with a big smile on his face when around fans and when doing interviews. He is someone who shines and relishes his time in the spotlight, from game-winners against Portland, to large press conferences in the Mall Of America, all while failing to be a detriment to the team or its fans.
Paired with likability is an artifact of Towns’ makeup that we need to pay more attention to. Respect. He never ceases to acknowledge those who came before him. This is evident when talking about fellow Dominican baller Al Horford. In an article on bostonglobe.com, Towns cites Horford as a mentor who helped his basketball game evolve:
“It’s always great when I go up against Al,”
“Even today, I don’t act like I know everything. I think Al is really the first person who got me to understand how important the midrange shot was. I think that’s treated me tremendously well, especially in my first two years in the league.”
“Big thanks to Al to really raising my eyes to how special and unique it is to have a midrange shot.”
These types of quotes and acknowledgements are great to see from a young and blossoming star in the league.
Although the acquisitions to the Pack are welcomed and much needed for this starved fan base, let us not forget our biggest addition, which came in 2015 NBA Draft. Karl-Anthony Towns can carry this franchise to heights never seen before, and deserves our full attention, no matter what outside static occurs in the basketball realm.
You can follow Cade Pierson on Twitter: @CadePierson3
Also follow @howlintwolf on Twitter for all your Timberwolves news and opinions.
*All stats/tables found on basketball-reference.com