For the first time in a long time, there’s a healthy argument for who the Minnesota Timberwolves’ most valuable player is. The answer has been Karl-Anthony Towns since the Jimmy Butler saga, and for good reason. Since Butler departed in 2019, Towns’ 25 points per game and 11 rebounds combine to make him one of the more impactful players in the league.
Obviously, Towns is a special talent and has been the face of the franchise since his arrival. But he was also surrounded by an inferior supporting cast. Who was challenging Towns’ claim as the Timberwolves’ MVP? Taj Gibson? No disrespect to the Brooklyn native, but he certainly wasn’t an elite talent during his days in Minnesota.
I’m sure the words “Wolves back” have rung through just about every Timberwolves fan’s Twitter feed multiple times. And for good reason, the Wolves are truly back. They also might be back with a better-than-ever supporting cast, but only time can tell.
Today, we’re gonna run Towns through the gauntlet. To see if he’s still the team’s MVP, we’ll put him up against the likes of teammates Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards, the roster’s other superstars, to see if he’s still Minnesota’s MVP.
The Case for Towns
Towns has been on Minnesota’s roster the longest, which may seem like it doesn’t matter for one-year speculation, but it does. KAT’s comfort and familiarity with the Wolves system earn him kudos in this debate. There’s also something to be said about the stability he has provided this team over the years. Besides the wrist issues last season, Towns has been Minnesota’s rock, which makes them more primed to trust him. More trust leads to more opportunities for Towns to be the team’s focal point.
He’s also primed to have a career year. Gobert provides genuine help down low this year, so Towns will see less of those pesky double-teams that held Towns back last season. It’s nearly impossible to guard KAT without them. His 25-point, 10-rebound season was Towns’ seventh time averaging a double-double, a feat he’s managed to do every year of his career. With those numbers due to blossom, it’s hard not to say KAT will be the Wolves MVP.
But there’s an argument to be made for Gobert and Edwards.
The Timberwolves paid a hefty price for Gobert, the 3-time DPOY winner, 6-time All-Defensive First Team, 3-time All-Star, and 3-time All-NBA third-team winner. Gobert is probably the most decorated player to put on a Wolves jersey since Kevin Garnett. But will he be able to continue that kind of production in Minnesota?
The short answer is yes, but it’s gonna take him some time. Gobert averaged 15 points and 14.7 rebounds last season, a mark that led the league. But even those big-time stats don’t do Gobert justice. Alongside with addition of pick-and-roll partner D’Angelo Russell, Gobert is in for a career year on offense. Plus, he’s still far and away the most impactful defensive player in the league. But Gobert still has some adjusting to do.
The French center has played in Quinn Snyders’ system for his entire career and now has to switch over to Chris Finch’s system. There will inevitably be some buffer, but not too long. Still, it will be long enough to leave Gobert out of the race. To be clear, I’m debating who will be the team’s MVP, so the whole season is being considered.
By the end of the season, I expect Gobert to be in full form. However, his slow start will inevitably leave him lagging. So one round down for Towns, one to go.
Now the fun one. Enter Edwards, the NBA-All Rookie 1st Team and SEC Rookie of the Year. I know the accolades aren’t as impressive as Gobert’s, but the high-flying dunks and highlight plays speak for themselves.
Compared to the other two, Edwards is probably comfortably the worst player (right now) out of the three. That’s crazy to think about, considering Ant will likely be an All-Star this season. But even though he’s not as complete as the other two, he may have the most talented offensive skill set by the end of the year. Not only that, but Ant has taken strides as an on-ball defender. In fact, he’s taken strides in just about every aspect of his game.
The case for Edwards being the team MVP lies in his ability to develop. Last year, Edwards gave us a glimpse of what he does on the brightest stage, averaging 25 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds on 45% shooting. Fans can likely expect a similar stat line from Ant next season. That means Ant would average a similar offensive stat line to KAT while being a more impactful defender. Edwards should also act as the team’s closer this year, which will only increase his importance to the team.
Ant also has the advantage of being the face of the Wolves franchise. Even with only two years of experience, the coaching staff is willing to bet on his success. There shouldn’t be a person in the organization that doesn’t believe in Ant, and the Rudy Gobert trade exemplified that.
The Wolves will go as Edwards goes this year. If he can become one of the best players in the league, they could easily find themselves in a deep playoff run. But even Edwards said he “need[s] another year” until he’s in that conversation. So the Wolves will really rely on Edwards’s development this year. He probably won’t join that conversation yet, but how much he does develop is vital to the Wolves. And even though Ant needs time to be one of the best players in the league, I think this is the year he becomes the team’s MVP.
Obviously, MVP and best player are two different things. Towns is still this team’s best player; it’s closer than it used to be. Still, he’s such a unique and high-level talent that it’ll take a while for him to get bumped off that arch. But Towns’ reign as MVP could be coming to a close this year.