The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Karl-Anthony Towns to be their cornerstone of the future. Towns averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds through 39 games with the Kentucky Wildcats, earning him the honor of being selected as the first pick in the 2015 draft. He was one of the best back-to-the-basket big men in that class. However, as we all know, Towns would become one of the best three-point shooting centers of all time.
Despite being a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA honoree, and one of the best players ever to don a Timberwolves uniform, a good chunk of fans are ready to move on from the 27-year-old. However, as a community, we first need to weigh the positives and negatives that would come with trading Towns this summer before Wolves Twitter implodes.
Minnesota’s woes during the 2022-23 season have been well-documented. They came into the season with a fresh starting five of D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert. On paper, they looked capable of finishing with 50+ wins and a top-five seed in a loaded Western Conference. However, horrible fortune struck. The Wolves barely made the playoffs for the second straight season.
Sure, the Timberwolves’ decision to send their floor general to the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline impacted the ebbs and flows of the season. But losing Towns for 52 games ultimately cost the Wolves a season that should have been filled with hope, excitement, and joy for the fanbase.
I only say it’s a failure because we made these big trades to succeed in the playoffs, and the fact that we didn’t make it out the first round, it’s a failure for us. We want to win a championship, we want to have a chance. I think he’s [Giannis Antetokounpo is] right in what he says, you never fail. The fact that we went out there and gave it all we had and things didn’t work out doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it just wasn’t your year.
There’s always going to be 29 teams that’s not their year. Me, personally, I just had goals that were set. I had set that I wanted us to, at bare minimum, make the second round, go to six or seven games, and get beat by a team that’s just better than us that round or that night. Not saying that I would like it, just saying that’s a goal – wanted to get second round, third round.
But we didn’t make it, so it obviously hurts. That’s something I’ll live with. I don’t think it was a failure for us getting people paid, doing what I do as a leader, making people better, and getting their families taken care of – I think I accomplished that goal. As a team, I feel like I wanted us to do more.
Looking at the season as a whole, it’s hard to say it was a total failure. On the other hand, it’s hard to point out many positives. Sure, you made the playoffs and fought enough to win one game against a Denver Nuggets team that has been dominating in the postseason. However, making it to the second round seemed to be the “bare minimum” expectation from inside the team.
Minnesota had bad luck all year long, and that didn’t stop in the playoffs. They were without Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid, two guys who are looking like fringe cornerstone players of the future.
It doesn’t seem like McDaniels is going anywhere anytime soon. However, the same can’t be said for Reid, who is currently an unrestricted free agent. It’s obvious that Minnesota’s front office is prioritizing signing Reid long-term. However, the 23-year-old may decide to take his talents elsewhere if he continues to get limited laying time behind Towns and Rudy Gobert.
Heading into the 2022-23 season, Chris Finch discussed Reid’s ever-changing role.
“I know he’s frustrated as a young player trying to come in and prove himself, build his career resume, earning potential, all that,” Finch said. “But he realizes last year it was a 16-minute role for the most part. This year, the role could be a little bit all over the place.”
Coming off the bench behind Towns and Gobert would be tough for any young big man. However, KAT’s absence gave Reid the perfect opportunity to show the Timberwolves how valuable he is. It’s hard not to wonder what the Wolves would look like if they never traded for Gobert and figured out a way to start Reid next to Towns – something we’ve seen work in the past.
Even though KAT didn’t perform the way his team would have hoped in this year’s playoffs, I highly doubt Tim Connelly is at the point of choosing between keeping Towns or Reid for the future. After all, we only saw the current starting five of Conley, Edwards, McDaniels, Towns, and Gobert in seven total games. On top of that, it is going to be extremely hard to find a market that would give the Wolves adequate compensation if they were to trade Towns.
The interest is there for KAT right now, seemingly because teams believe they can pry him away from the Wolves for cheaper than he may be worth. However, if the Utah Jazz can receive five first-round picks and key rotational pieces for Gobert, who’s to say Connelly and Co. won’t demand a similar if not greater package for Towns? (even if Minnesota did overpay for Gobzilla).
It seems to me like the Wolves have one more season to figure things out before drastic moves are made to both the roster and coaching staff. But Towns never had consistency in the NBA. Whether that’s front office changes, teammate changes, or personal health, it doesn’t feel like KAT would be able to look back on his time in Minnesota and call it a “win.” However, that illusive window to contend is approaching quicker than it ever has – putting even more pressure on Towns and his future with the team.