As the Minnesota Timberwolves move into the bulk of the regular season, one of their most vital opening goals should be to get KAT in rhythm offensively. They need to set him up to reach his full potential. Throughout his career, KAT has proven that he is a dynamic offensive player who’s capable of taking games over from beyond the arc.
The Wolves need to fully recognize that ability to be successful next year. Specifically, the coaching staff needs to find more effective ways for KAT to get shots up from beyond the arc both early and often. It’s not just about getting him in rhythm. The number of counters the Wolves can play based on the gravity that KAT can create by getting hot from downtown will become just as valuable to their freelance sets.
While the team has significantly improved around KAT throughout his Minnesota tenure, his volume has naturally fallen. In the 2019-20 season, his best statistical year, KAT averaged 26.5 points per game on 17.8 field goals attempted and 7.9 three-point attempts. That was his second-highest FGA of his career, slightly behind his 18 FGA in the 2019-20 season.
Towns’ 7.9 3PA was a career-high, and he hasn’t come close to reaching it since. While getting KAT his shots and making sure he’s still a focal point of the offense is vital, finding ways to streamline this through his beyond-the-arc shooting ability will create greater advantages for the Wolves. Much of it comes down to the supporting cast.
Despite the solid shooting talent the Wolves possessed this past season, they still often fell into the mid-range jumper trap, mostly due to D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards. While it’s okay for players to take mid-range shots at a modest rate, they were often changing the rhythm of the offense. They tend to be ball stoppers, holding onto the ball or not connecting at a clip high enough for it to be a viable shot.
The last decade of NBA hoops has been dominated by the death of the midrange, with teams opting for higher percentage looks. Over time, shooting threes or layups would statistically lead to more points. The Houston Rockets organization had a large role in that movement, and Sachin Gupta and Chris Finch have direct ties to that franchise.
Finch was the head coach of the Rockets G-League affiliate in 2009 and 2010. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers had immediate success under Finch. His teams went 77-33 over two seasons, winning the championship in 2009 and losing it in 2010. As a result, Finch earned a spot on Houston’s coaching staff as an assistant over the next five seasons.
In Finch’s first year on staff, the Rockets ranked 10th in 3PA in 2011-12. They made a drastic jump to second in 3PA in 2012-13, first in 2013-14, first in 2014-15, and second in 2015-16. Why is this so important? Finch has experience being part of a system that generates a high level of three-point shooting. In 2021-22, the Wolves attempted 41.3 three-point attempts per night, first in the league. However, they shot 33.3 a game last year, dropping them to 15th. It should be within their comfort zone to find a happy balance between those two full seasons under Finch.
The Wolves can use parts of the past two seasons to find a balance that creates better offense. Much of this can come from some simple sets.
Two easy ways to drive more three-point looks for KAT and the team come from the base Horns and Double Drag sets. Both sets are extremely common freelance options that NBA offenses use. They create multiple options, depending on who is positioned on the floor.
Here are some examples:
In the first highlight above, KAT gets a switch off the Horns screen. Bismack Biyombo is pressing him, and he has to create off the dribble, which opens up a three. While self-creation is an option, if Towns drives and collapses the defense, he could find Ant in the opposite corner or Taurean Prince on the near side. It creates multiple lanes of possibilities.
The second highlight is the best possible result. Devin Booker switches with T.J. Warren on the screen and has to fight around another screen that Rudy Gobert has set. That opens KAT up for a wide-open look. If Booker fights around this screen better, KAT will still have a driving lane, setting up a 2-on-1 with Rudy vs. Deandre Ayton. He also has Ant on the near corner if Josh Okogie collapses.
The first highlight on this clip gets a great shot for KAT. However, it would not be successful if not for Mike Conley’s manipulation and Gobert’s hard cut. Conley not only sets up the original screen with KAT, but snake and crab dribbles into the heart of the defense to get KAT his deserved look. If the defense doesn’t respect Rudy’s rolling or Conley’s live dribble inside of the arc, Rudy or Conley can find open looks themselves. However, the Wolves find the ultimate goal, with KAT getting an open catch-and-shoot three-pointer.
The second highlight here sees a more abridged version, with Ant quickly cutting across to the opposite wing. The nonchalant first screen sets up perfectly for the flare screen to KAT, with Rudy landing on an unsuspecting Okogie. Ayton is sitting way too far back, and they do not communicate quickly enough. Even if Ayton and Okogie better manage this set, KAT can have a driving lane or help nearby on his close side with Jaden McDaniels waiting. You can see how Rudy still has a role in this set to read to roll to the basket or screen for a teammate.
The third clip is set up exceptionally well by Ant using his gravity as a scorer to get his man behind him through the double drag. He is then a 2-on-1 threat with Rudy against Jokic, forcing Eric Gordon to come down. That allows KAT to get plenty of separation for a C&S look.
Even if the Wolves are not 100% dialed in on KAT getting more set looks, these actions will open up more potential looks for the rest of the team through this process. That would both increase the volume of threes that they can put up but also try to fix the lingering issues with the offensive stagnation through the freelance offense. Regardless, Finch can only set up success so much with schemes. The players still must properly execute on the court.