Timberwolves

The Wolves Need To Fire Up The KAT Signal

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker (USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a .500 winning percentage and are looking far from the team that we all hoped they’d be. However, Minnesota’s one constant bright spot has been none other than former All-Star and All-NBA player Karl-Anthony Towns.

Even with the team playing less than stellar basketball in the first two weeks of the regular season, the big man is still finding a way to look like the same player he was just a few seasons ago. The same player who many considered to be a top-three center in the league.

Towns is currently sitting high and mighty as the league’s 12th highest scorer per contest. So, it would be safe for someone who doesn’t watch every Timberwolves game (also known as someone with a life) to assume the former All-NBA player takes the most shots for the team he plays for, right? But sadly, that someone would be mistaken.

Karl-Alfred Towns

As a fan of the NBA, you’ve probably heard someone allude to the famous comic book characters, Batman and Robin. It’s an analogy people use when trying to decipher which player is the go-to option (Batman) and which one is second in line (Robin). Michael Jordan and LeBron James acted as the Caped Crusader for their respective championship teams. Scottie Pippen and Dwyane Wade both played the role of the Boy Wonder alongside them.

There shouldn’t be a debate on whether KAT plays the role of the hero or the sidekick. For fans, the real question seemed to be who would play the role of Robin: former All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell or last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up Anthony Edwards. And with such a highly efficient offensive skill set, many projected Towns to be the first option for a team desperate to make some noise in the Western Conference. But as of now, Karl has seemed to be playing more like the role of Alfred, Batman’s trusted butler/assistant. (No, not that Butler.)

Before Monday night’s loss to the Orlando Magic, Towns was only taking the third-most shot attempts on the team. Yes, both Edwards and Russell, who have struggled to find their rhythm on offense so far this season, had been chucking up more shots than arguably the best offensive big in the entire NBA. The results? The Timberwolves now sit 24th in the league in both offensive rating and points per game. And the likelihood that a team with an offense this bad making even the play-in tournament is almost non-existent.

Let’s look at some numbers: Towns is averaging 24.8 PPG on only 16.7 FGA with efficient shooting splits of 52/50/88. Edwards is averaging 23.2 PPG with 21.8 FGA on 41/31/80 shooting. And as for Russell, he has only managed to average 14.8 PPG, his lowest points per game average since his rookie year. He’s averaging 15.3 FGA, 16.8 before missing the second half of the loss against the Orlando Magic, with abysmal shooting percentages of 36/29/77.

Looking at these numbers alone, it’s safe to say that Russell should look to act more as the third-option, or “Alfred” role. He should focus more on aspects of the game, which include creating plays without turnovers and defending at near a league-average rate.

As for Edwards, he should allow Towns to take on the role of the Dark Knight. He’s still a great young player, but he’s got a lot of latent potential that has yet to be tapped into.

Minnesota’s In Trouble

If you are unaware of how bad this team is from an offensive standpoint, the Wolves shoot more threes than any other team in the league (43.8 3PA per game). However, they have only knocked down 31.6% of these shots from beyond the arc (24th in the league).

With an offense as poor as the one we’ve seen so far, it’s hard to be able to put points up on the board. This team has only been able to score 100-plus points in two of their six games and are 1-3 in games in which they cannot achieve triple-digit points. The lone victory came against the 14th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans.

The way to improve both the team’s points per game and field goal percentage? Get the player who can score a ton of points efficiently the ball more often. We’ve all witnessed this during the 2019-20 season when poor outside shooters like Treveon Graham and Jarrett Culver got significant minutes. Unlike that miserable roster of Timberwolves past, this team has decent players out on the perimeter.

Now, I’m not suggesting that KAT forces his way into taking more shots. A Towns who plays too aggressively is likely to get himself into foul trouble, which only ends up hurting Finch and Co. I am saying that instead of players like Russell and Edwards continuing to take low percentage shots as they have lately, allow your best offensive weapon to be the primary option of the offensive end.

If the players on this roster are worried about winning ball games as opposed to simply getting their shots up, this team should be headed for a top 8-10 seed, at minimum. Yes, Finch and his team are going to have their work cut out for them as they try to find ways to get franchise cornerstone Towns more opportunities to score the basketball into their half-court offense.

There’s still plenty of basketball to be played in this 2021-22 season. However, if we’re still having conversations like these come February, we’ll need to fire the KAT-signal to save Gotha — I mean Minnesota.

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