It feels like nobody has written anything about Karl-Anthony Towns in a while. That’s not a bad thing.
The Timberwolves franchise pillar enters his 8th season with the team fresh off of an offseason where he signed a super-max extension and posted a ton of pictures with his girlfriend Jordyn Woods on Instagram. The whopping 4-year, $224 million deal was briefly the subject of headlines, but NBA fans quickly moved on amidst the Kevin Durant speculation. Minnesota traded for Rudy Gobert not a day after Towns’ extension, shifting the focus away from him.
Towns’ absence from the NBA spotlight is a new development. His high-profile relationship with Woods is a much different spectacle and tone than the usual media chatter about Towns. Minnesota has been a losing franchise for most of Towns’ tenure, and he has been scapegoated for much of that despite the obvious franchise dysfunction surrounding him. It’s easier to point fingers at one person than many, so KAT’s reputation has suffered because of it.
The Jimmy Butler debacle of 2018 didn’t help Towns much, either. Towns has yet to shake the “soft” label that has followed him since Butler went on his infamous adolescent tirade before eventually making his way out of town. KAT’s penchant to effusively complain about foul calls also has done nothing to help this perception. Therefore, it remains a hot talking point when national media coverage talks about his efficacy as a player.
However, after a season in which head coach Chris Finch squeezed all he could out of the team and saw the Timberwolves make the playoffs, Towns appears to no longer be in the spotlight. Last season’s success forced the Wolves to make more win-now moves to surround young superstar Anthony Edwards with as much talent as possible to ensure he develops in a winning culture. Towns is a significant part of the team, but all eyes have shifted towards Edwards’ growth and speculation on whether Gobert will be a good fit for the Wolves.
There is little doubt that the lack of attention will be good for Towns. He likely knows this as well. Towns’ low-key offseason that has seemingly just been filled with vacation time is likely to ensure that he stays as low-key as possible. Attention for being in a relationship with a high-profile celebrity is a far different animal than the haunting monster of being an “empty stats guy” in the NBA. There is likely much more love and respect for Towns in his life outside the NBA.
In an ideal world, this alleviation of pressure should do wonders for his game. Towns is headed towards a positional shift to power forward for the first time in his career because of Gobert. This change has not been a big point of conversation, as most are focused on Gobert and the false notion that he gets “played off the floor” in the playoffs. Being able to roam freely on the perimeter will help KAT’s already generational offensive efficiency ascend to new heights. Without overbearing offseason speculation on how this could go wrong for him, Towns will be able to enjoy the freedom of approaching this shift however he and the coaching staff please.
Taking the focus off of KAT will also open the door for Edwards to step up as the team’s true leader. Edwards is oozing with potential as the face of the franchise. There is a considerable argument that he has already ascended to that level after only two years in the league. If Ant can take that major leap forward like many are projecting him to this season, he will be the unquestioned leader of the Timberwolves. Edwards will play a significant role in changing the national perception of the franchise. The window for Towns to seize that role has passed, and Edwards is slated to be the next great savior of Minnesota basketball.
That’s not to say that KAT will decline on the court, either. Towns is fresh off of an All-NBA appearance, and at just 26 years old, he is still entering the prime of his career. His on-court production for the Wolves often goes overlooked and taken for granted. Towns’ counting stat averages were technically down last season, though his efficiency bounced back after a tough 2020-21 campaign. He is the rock for the Timberwolves, the consistent producer who will always get his shots. There is immense value in having a player as consistent and reliable as KAT. The Wolves benefit from his commitment for as long as he wants to stay in Minnesota.
While his leadership role looks to be diminishing, the opportunity for Towns to reinvent himself as a winning player is emerging. The lack of attention should give him time to focus on the things that matter, and with team success will come the individual accolades that will inevitably catapult KAT back into stardom. Everything is falling into place, and Towns should appreciate the time away from the limelight.