Timberwolves

KAT's Generational Talent Continues To Be Overlooked

Photo Credit: David Berding (USA TODAY Sports)

It’s not every day a team finds a generational talent coming out of college. However, that’s exactly what Flip Saunders and the Minnesota Timberwolves stumbled upon when they drafted All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns with the first pick in 2015.

“I think I’m one of the best offensive players and talents the NBA has ever seen,” Towns told CBS in a recent interview. After this quote went viral, a flurry of mixed feelings ensued amongst NBA and Timberwolves fans. However, KAT is spot on with this and, for some reason, isn’t getting the kudos he deserves.

Towns’ experience in the NBA has been a rollercoaster, to say the least. Unfortunately, it’s been filled with more downs than ups. From zero front office stability to having no help on the court, KAT’s NBA career has been anything but glamorous.

Despite his misfortunes with the team, he still finds a way to go out every game and put up ridiculous numbers from inside and out. He is continuing to prove that he is indeed a generational talent. With the current makeup of the roster, his future in Minnesota looks much more favorable for both him and the team.

Coming off an overwhelming regular season and relatively underwhelming postseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves are hoping to contend in the West this year. Rising superstar Anthony Edwards will look to take this Wolves team to the next level. The consensus feeling amongst Timberwolves fans is that Ant should be the No. 1 option, giving him more primary ball-handling duties. However, the Timberwolves still have a generational talent in the front court and someone who doesn’t receive the flowers he deserves.

You can’t argue against the numbers that Towns has put up through his seven-year career. However, some will say these impressive stats are “empty” due to the Timberwolves being in the doldrums of the NBA for most of Kat’s time in Minnesota.

Above is Towns’ career-regular season stats. It doesn’t take long to notice just how dominant he’s been. However, the Timberwolves have only won 214 games out of the 482 that KAT has played in Minnesota. Coming out of college, fans expected Towns to lead a Timberwolves team that’s had nothing to cheer for since the Kevin Garnett days back into the playoffs. They hoped he’d turn them into a relevant team again. Naturally, fans and media quickly pin the team’s past struggles on KAT, which is unfair to him.

Other than one year with Jimmy Butler, Towns hasn’t had an adequate supporting cast.

Despite the abysmal past, the future looks like it’s trending in the right direction following last season’s unexpected successes and impressive off-season, mainly due to the accusation of three-time Defensive Player Of the Year, Rudy Gobert.

It’s the question all have been asking and one that Karl-Anthony Towns has heard all too often.

“How is Towns, a 7-foot center, going to coexist with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ newest acquisition, fellow 7-footer Rudy Gobert, in an NBA that’s going increasingly small?” Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS asked Towns.

“The last time I had something like this, obviously I had Gorgui Dieng, I played [power forward] a lot of years in the NBA. Fans forgot that. It’s OK,” Towns told CBS Sports. “And go back to me in college. This is how I played in college. Willie Cauley-Stein is like 7’2″. I don’t know what they’re missing in that.”

Towns also played next to a center during both of Minnesota’s playoff runs with KAT on the roster.

Most recently, Chris Finch put Towns next to Jarred Vanderbilt, who the Wolves traded to the Utah Jazz this offseason. Vanderbilt may not be a prototypical big man. However, Finch utilized Vando as more of a center than he ever did with KAT. Vanderbilt was at his best in the dunker’s spot when flushing the ball down off a pick-and-roll or opponents double-teamed KAT.

The KAT-Vanderbilt frontcourt wasn’t all positive, though. Teams ran a spy type of defense when facing the Wolves. The squad who made this famous? The Utah Jazz. Quin Snyder would assign Gobert to Vanderbilt and Bojan Bogdanović to Towns. That would take away KAT’s ability to dominate outside the arc while keeping Gobert in the paint to clog the lane.

During the 2017-18 season, Towns played alongside Taj Gibson for all 82 games. Towns and Gibson had respectable seasons together. Towns would be selected to his first All-Star Game, and Gibson was a crucial part of the Wolves team that broke the 13-year playoff drought.

Gobert is a much different player than Vanderbilt and Gibson, though. Towns has a long history of playing the 4, so fitting next to Gobert will be no issue. Frankly, this shouldn’t even be a question due to how lethal Kat’s offensive talents truly are.

“I think that Rudy’s one of the best defensive players we’ve ever had in the NBA. He has the hardware to prove it,” Towns told CBS Sports. “I think I’m one of the best offensive players and talents the NBA has ever seen. So putting us together gives us really a whole spectrum of talent to use.”

Regardless of social media’s opinion on this quote, he’s right about his talents. Towns impacts the game in multiple ways. From outside the arc to inside, KAT always finds a way to control all aspects of the game, when he stays out of foul trouble, of course.

After becoming the three-point shooting champion last season, KAT finally received some of the credit he deserved.

Some will tell you that 14x All-Star Dirk Nowitzki is the best shooting big-man of all time. However, when comparing their games and play styles, it’s unfair for either of them to be compared to one another.

Look at Dirk and KAT’s shot charts side by side. Dirk did most of his damage from the midrange through his 21-year Hall of Fame career, while KAT’s focus has been in the paint and from three.

It’s clear that Towns and Nowitski’s talent levels should not be compared for a long time. One reason is that Kat has been in the NBA for half as many years as Dirk was. Despite the relatively small sample size we’ve seen from Towns, I believe KAT is the best three-point shooting big of all time, and Nowitski is the best mid-range shooting big there ever was.

Towns brings much more to the team than just his ability to stretch the floor. Because he’s 6’11”, KAT sees the floor exceptionally well. Throughout his career, he has averaged only three assists per game which seems very low. However, KAT has also played on some pretty poor teams with no one to swing the rock to.

On top of all this, Towns can also punish you down low. However, most teams have now taken this away from his arsenal as they will double or even triple-team KAT whenever he turns his back to the basket.

KAT’s most prominent critics highlight his lack of paint defense and undisciplined, foul-prone play. But Towns held his own down low last year much better than in the past. However, he had 267 fouls last season, the third-most in the NBA.

Towns has endured his fair share of scrutiny during his seven-year career, some of which is deserved. Still, he’s an overlooked generational talent who sometimes doesn’t receive the credit he deserves from the fans. However, this will change if he, Edwards, Gobert, and D’Angelo Russell can lead this Wolves team to sustained postseason success – something Minnesota has been deprived of for many years.

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Photo Credit: David Berding (USA TODAY Sports)

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