Towns Will Benefit From Returning To A More Physical NBA

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball-reference’s nicknames section is comedy gold. For some players, it is pretty straightforward. Kevin Garnett is KG, The Kid, and The Big Ticket, each nickname more iconic than the last.

For other players, it makes no sense. Corey Brewer, for example, is The Drunken Dribbler and Greyhound. The lack of context is what makes it particularly amusing. What on earth did Corey Brewer do to get the moniker The Drunken Dribbler?

Then you have a mix of both: Karl Anthony Towns, KAT, or apparently Special K to some. A quick Google search provides absolutely no help as to why Towns is referred to by the beloved breakfast cereal. However, when Towns plays, it could be that he provides a balanced part of a complete offense. With Towns’ return on the horizon, it’s important to look at what he could bring to a far different team than he left.

Shams Charania surprisingly tweeted about Towns on March 7. At the time, Minnesota’s fanbase learned their All-Star forward would be out indefinitely with a left meniscus tear. Five days later, the Wolves confirmed that Towns underwent surgery to repair the tear in his knee.

With a typical recovery time of four to six weeks, Towns was on a timetable to return for the playoffs. However, the news that Towns would miss significant time seemed to dim the fan base’s hopes that the Timberwolves would retain the top seed.

Four weeks later, Charania made headlines again regarding Towns. “I’m told he is very, very close to returning to action,’ he told Pat McAfee. “There is optimism that Karl-Anthony Towns will play before the playoffs start.”

That would suggest that Towns could return this week against the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, or Phoenix Suns. Regardless, Towns is nearing his return, which would be a massive boost to a team that seems to be finding its groove offensively.

However, the Wolves have played well during Towns’ 16-game absence. They have an 11-5 record, good for fifth best in the NBA during that time, and are holding down the 1-seed. Defensively, the Wolves have remained superb at a 106.5 defensive rating, a full 1.2 points better than their already top-ranked season average.

Minnesota’s offense rating has also improved, going from 17th overall (114.5) to 14th (114.3) during those 16 games. It’s important to note that the offense numbers haven’t improved; instead, the Wolves have climbed in the rankings by remaining consistent. Also, the Timberwolves may not have improved their numbers because the league has allowed for a more physical style of play since the All-Star break.

The more physical play has benefited the Wolves defensively and has helped with players who typically live in foul trouble like Towns. For example, Jaden McDaniels has seen his fouls per game drop to 3.5 fouls per 36 minutes in Towns’ 16-game absence, 0.3 less than his season average and the lowest mark of his career.

Minnesota has also seen its fouls drop from 18.8 per game over the season to 17.2 since Towns was injured. The combination of Jaden’s fouls dropping and the teams’ overall fouls dropping suggests that it was more related to the rules changing and more physical play being allowed. That would also indicate that Towns may also benefit from more physical play.

Before the injury, Towns averaged 3.3 fouls per game. If he also saw a 0.3 decrease in his fouls, that could mean he is on the court more. He could play meaningful minutes during the second and third quarters instead of being strapped to the bench in foul trouble.

Fouls aside, the Wolves should also see an increase in their scoring. With Naz Reid’s continued emergence, Towns will be tasked with taking on more of Kyle Anderson’s minutes and role within the offense as a small forward or even playing alongside Anderson, Reid, and Gobert in an amalgamation of the biggest possible lineup.

Gobert, Towns, and Reid have only shared the floor for 26 minutes this season. However, they have a net rating of +39.7 in those minutes and an 86.8 post defensive rating. It should be noted that this is a small sample size, but it reflects that the three-center lineup could be an option to try in the playoffs or practice in the remaining games of the season.

Ultimately, Special K’s return may signal a return to normality for the Wolves. With the playoffs typically consisting of an eight- to nine-man rotation, in Towns’ absence, the Timberwolves were able to solidify a pretty clear rotation of players they trust. In Towns’ return, the Wolves can rest other starters and prepare themselves for a deep playoff run. That is, of course, if they use Special K correctly as part of a balanced offense.

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Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Western Conference Finals are upon us, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are making their first WCF appearance since their historic 2003-04 season. While the NBA has changed […]

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