Anthony Edwards is a precociously-talented offensive player. The day where Ant puts an offense on his back for 70-plus games and leads his team to the playoffs will come, but he’s not quite there yet.
His progression to superstardom is rapid, but he lacks the consistency and experience to truly run a team. There’s no reason for concern yet, though. Ant is still only 20 years old. Edwards will comfortably lead the future, but what about right now?
Although some fans tend to forget Karl-Anthony Towns is a top-15 scorer in the league. He’s currently averaging 24.3 points per game, 14th in the NBA.
Being a top-15 scorer in the league is impressive on its own, but it’s even more impressive when you look at the usage percentage of the players ranked above Towns. He has a lower usage rate than all of the players ranked above him. Not only that but there are 28 players ranked above him. It’s understandable why he has a lower usage rate than Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum based on the position that he plays, but 28? Let’s unpack why.
One major factor is the players surrounding Towns. KAT is one of only two top-13 PPG scorers who don’t shoot the most attempts per game on their team. The other? Old friend Zach LaVine. Towns attempts 16.8 field goals per game; Edwards attempts 18.3. D’Angelo Russell follows close behind at 16.6. There isn’t much room for Karl to put up a crazy amount of shots.
But shouldn’t the Wolves make room?
KAT is one of the most efficient players in the league. If the only thing limiting his shots are his teammates, shouldn’t room be made for Towns?
That’s where the core of the problem is. Towns isn’t only being limited by his teammates. It’s those pesky double teams.
Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder unlocked a method to contain Towns. Now, the Wolves have had to deal with the concept all year. Almost all of Minnesota’s opponents have adopted this strategy. Towns is getting doubled nearly every time he touches the ball. To be fair, it works. Once he’s doubled-teamed, KAT’s points plummet, so is that it.
Does a double-team mean opponents have completely locked down Towns?
Well, not exactly.
Although the double-teams give Towns trouble, it also shows the importance of his playmaking. It’s imperative for Towns to be able to make the right decision quickly and precisely,
Even though pretty passes like this will get all the attention. KAT’s passing has always been an essential part of his game. At times, he can get a little too ambitious trying to do no-look, over-the-shoulder passes. But besides a couple of flashy passes that have gone haywire, his ability to escape double teams with a pass is usually successful.
One of the most underrated aspects of having a great offensive player like Towns is his gravity on the offensive end. In basketball, gravity is a term to describe how much attention a player commands from opposing defenses. Steph Curry is the golden boy of gravity, but Karl has a black hole-sized pull as well.
The video above is a visualization of gravity. Typically, you’d see a reach and retreat to the three-point line from Julius Randle, but KAT isn’t your typical player. Randle has to completely leave Jaden McDaniels to help on KAT. Towns’ gravitational force “pulls” defenders into him, leaving a wide-open corner look for Jaden McDaniels.
Plays like that illustrate how much of this Wolves offense they built around KAT. Even though Karl won’t earn an assist or add to his point total on a play like this, he’s making a winning basketball play.
The Wolves find success when KAT is their leading offensive threat. Minnesota wins 58% of its games when he leads the team in shots. They only win 46% of the time when he doesn’t. That’s a 12% drop-off between the two, and that drop-off leads to a 10-game record difference throughout an 82 game season. Obviously, Towns won’t always lead his team in shots every night, but it’d be interesting to see what the Wolves could do if he increased that number.
Looking at the other elite offensive bigs in the league, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić lead their teams in shots 78% and 73% off the time, respectively. KAT doesn’t necessarily have to mimic these. But that large discrepancy is eye-raising, especially when you look at both bigs’ success and how it affects their teams. The Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers have been staples in the playoffs because their centers drive winning.
Though the Wolves season should already be considered a success compared to recent seasons, a more aggressive KAT could be the difference between making the playoffs and playing in the play-in tournament.
The beauty of Towns’ offense is his scoring ability, especially from the outside. His playmaking ability and just how much gravity he generates for an offense get overlooked, though. This whole offense flows through him like a river. Without him, the Wolves’ offense would dry up.
Minnesota is 2-5 without KAT. He’s as essential as he’s ever been to this team. With the first real playoff push in what feels like ages, it’s important to put the ball in your best player’s hands.
Edwards and Russell are both great players.
There’s no one quite like KAT.