It doesn’t come as a surprise that when the NBA announced the All-Pro teams on Tuesday, there were no Minnesota Timberwolves on the list. Not only that, but none received votes.
Karl-Anthony Towns was once a member of the All-Pro team, earning third-team honors back in 2018. He made the All-Star team that year as well. So what does KAT have to do to become an All-Pro again?
The Wolves had another deflating year, but it ended with optimism. Minnesota started to look competitive when they finally got healthy and had Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell all on the floor together. The trio gelled, and to many people’s surprise, they were often at their best when DLo came off the bench.
One key factor for Towns getting back to All-Pro caliber is something he has some control over — relevancy.
Look at the names on the All-Pro teams this year. The first team included Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. All five players at least made the play-in tournament.
For Towns to get back to that level of recognition, the Wolves must be playing competitive basketball and at least sniff the postseason. Living in the Western Conference cellar won’t cut it.
When Towns was an All-Pro in 2017-18, Minnesota went 47-35 and made the playoffs for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. As a result, there were more eyeballs on the Wolves than there had been in years. Towns led the team in win shares (14.0), and while they didn’t have success upon reaching the postseason, Minnesota still became relevant.
To further put this into perspective, out of the 15 players who made an All-Pro team this year, Curry was the only one whose team didn’t officially make the playoffs. Curry had an otherworldly year, and as a past MVP, he’s always going to be up for All-Pro selections if he’s out on the court doing Steph Curry stuff. Unfortunately, KAT doesn’t have that luxury.
Next year figures to be a massive year in Towns’ career trajectory.
Think about it for a minute: KAT will be entering his seventh season. It’s inching closer and closer to the point of either accepting that he will always be like this, which is pretty good but not great, or him getting back on track to becoming one of the most dominant centers in the game.
Surrounding factors have played into this, no doubt. Constant coaching turnover, no stability within the organization since the early 2000s — all of that matters. But a lot of the responsibility for Towns’ career path falls into his own lap.
After the 2018 season, the idea was that KAT would be one of the best centers for the next decade. But, unfortunately, that plan has hit the back burner for the last two years.
The 2019-20 season was weird in general because of the pandemic and the stoppage to the season. Towns only played in 35 total games and the Wolves weren’t part of the restart in the bubble. And this past season, KAT only played in 50 games of a possible 72 and struggled with heartbreak off the court.
In his first four seasons, the former NBA Rookie of the Year missed a combined five games. That’s not a misprint. Five games missed in his first four years — all in the 2018-19 season. KAT staying healthy is as key to him returning to an All-Pro form as any of the surrounding factors within the Timberwolves’ franchise.
Next year will be pivotal for Karl-Anthony Towns. If he can stay healthy and the surrounding pieces are good to go, Minnesota has a legitimate shot to contend in the Western Conference. Towns can get back to his (relatively) old ways and show that, seven years in, he can still be a dominant center.
But we must recognize that this isn’t Towns’ second or third season in the league anymore. This is his prime, and it’s prove-it time. If he’s able to elevate while getting back to the 2017-18 KAT that everyone fell in love with, No. 32 will end up back on an All-Pro team.