Timberwolves

What Towns' Shift To PF Could Mean For Him On Both Sides Of the Ball

Photo Credit: Erik Williams (USA TODAY Sports)

With the significant moves that the Minnesota Timberwolves have made this offseason, many are waiting to see how this revamped team will look heading into the 2022-23 season. Adding all-NBA center Rudy Gobert will somewhat affect most of Minnesota’s players. Still, Gobert’s presence will likely affect Karl-Anthony Towns more than anyone else.

KAT will now be able to move to power forward with Gobert at center. Shifting to power forward (PF) should bode well for KAT offensively and defensively. However, there are a few things, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, that Towns will have to focus on improving so he and Gobert can be as effective as possible. I will explain how KATs’ play on offense and defense could look and how his shift to PF will enhance and change.

Offense

On the offensive side of the court, KAT’s shift to PF with Gobert playing center offers Towns the ability to stay out on the perimeter more often. There, Towns can capitalize on his three-point shooting, one of his biggest strengths.

Towns has averaged around 40% on shooting from the perimeter in four of his last five seasons. He has continued to showcase that he is not only one of the better three-point shooters for his size/position but one of the better three-point shooters in the league. Towns shot 41% from three last season, logging him in the top 20 amongst accurate three-point shooters in the league.

But Towns has played mostly center for the Wolves. Therefore, his presence on the perimeter often results in a lack of interior presence on the glass. With Gobert, though, Towns can further maximize his offensive prowess from outside the paint. Gobert will be inside to help secure offensive rebounds and/or finish in the paint – two things he excels at. Gobert has finished right around the top 5 in offensive rebounding in the last two seasons. He also led in field goal percentage last season at 71.4%, with most of his shots coming at the rim. With Gobert in the mix, Towns can now light it up from three at a higher rate without worrying about the offense’s interior.

Towns can also initiate many more pick-and-pop options within the offense since he will likely have more availability for spacing the floor at the 4 and won’t feel as much of a need to roll to the rim. With Gobert at the 5 and Towns at the 4, it is very possible that we can see set plays where both come up to set screens for their ball handlers. While Gobert rolls to the rim, Towns can simply pop out to the perimeter and either spot up for a three or conduct some of his own one-on-one off-the-dribble offense. Overall, Towns has a lot more of a chance to generate his offense from outside the paint and also to work alongside Gobert. Defenses can’t leave either player alone near the rim, which will open up a lot of offensive versatility for Towns to capitalize on.

Defense

It’s no secret that Gobert is already one of the most decorated defensive players of all time. His interior defensive presence is something that will truly be felt next year. However, this means that Towns will likely defend on the perimeter against stretch 4s and other wings more often. For Towns to excel at the 4 alongside Gobert, he will probably have to be a plus-defender on the perimeter more often than not.

When Towns played at center, he would usually resort to dropping in coverage and defending inside or near the paint against some of the other 5s in the league. Towns has never been recognized as a strong defender, but he has gradually improved.

Minnesota’s best defensive stretch last season arguably came during the early portion of the season when Chris Finch used Towns in an aggressive pick-and-roll defensive game plan. His scheme went after opposing ball handlers and aimed to force turnovers near the perimeter. Towns’ above-average lateral quickness and Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels‘ ability to defend passing lanes led to some relative defensive success. However, opposing teams would soon catch on to this defensive plan and find ways to expose KAT by making him defend near the rim again.

But Towns will likely have to play more defense on the perimeter with Gobert. Therefore, Towns must dedicate himself to this side of the ball and help ensure that he is not a significant liability defending as a power forward. If Towns can do this, he will be seen as a more capable defender and allow Gobert to excel at what he does best – defending at the rim.

Considering that Towns and Gobert will likely be playing together for the next three to four years, Towns must find a way to optimize his play at PF on offense and defense. If he can do so, the Wolves have the potential to be one of the better teams in the league for years to come.

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Photo Credit: Erik Williams (USA TODAY Sports)

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