KAT Missing the Playoffs
Besides an outlier season where Jimmy Butler carried the Timberwolves to an 8th seed, Karl Anthony-Towns and the team hasn’t had much playoff success. In his four years in the league he has played in one playoff series. This, all for a player that came into the league and looked like he was the next great center to grace the basketball court. There are few big men with his total package of skillset and even those big men lack his total flair for the game. KAT is the best shooting center possibly ever. Most analysts point to Nikola Jokic and Joel Embid as the two best centers in the NBA. Both have a unique skillset with decent to above average ball handling and passing, but when it comes to shooting the 3, Karl is the one with the most consistency. He has shot over 40 percent for the last 2 years and it doesn’t look like there will be much of a drop off. The main reason why Jimmy Butler wanted to get out of Minnesota is that he saw the talent of Karl and Andrew Wiggins, but he didn’t see those players put in the work ethic to become the superstars that everyone expected them to be. Watching Karl in his last few seasons, a player of his skillset should be touching the ball more often and taking more shots but it seemed like he didn’t want to offend or hurt anyone’s feelings. That mindset has kept him from elevating the Twolves to regular playoff contention and a lack of analysts mentioning him as one of the best players in the game. Talent-wise it is hard to argue that his skillset is not one of the top ten in the NBA. The problem was always desire and heart. His defense for the most part has been lacking as well.
No more missed playoffs?
Coming into the 2020 season, it was widely presumed that the West would be too tough for young teams like the Twolves. After the first two games, if Karl keeps playing like this, I don’t see any way that they don’t make the playoffs. While two games is too early to come to any type of conclusions as to what type of season a player is going to have, it is easy to sense that Karl is tired of missing the playoffs and being underestimated. In the first two games, he has hit 60 percent of his shots while averaging 36.5 points a game and adding in 14.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Most importantly, these numbers have resulted in two wins. Yes, the wins came against eastern conference teams. The thing is, when young teams mature, the first part of success is beating the teams you are supposed to beat. While Charlotte will likely be one of the worst teams in the league, the Brooklyn Nets will most likely be a playoff team. That is still a long way from the upper echelon of the western conference; but looking at the top teams in the league, there are only have a hand full of players who can even make the game slightly difficult for Karl. Maybe 5 or 6 teams max have a defensive center that can give him some hassle; but even still with his ability to stretch the floor, defensive stalwarts such as Rudy Gobert will be left puzzled trying to guard this guy. The reason I am so optimistic about the Twolves at the moment is not them winning two games against the eastern conference teams, but on how Karl has taken the onus on himself to carry the wolves. There will be games where he doesn’t come close to these numbers, but if he is this engaged throughout the season there is no reason why he should be putting up around 28 or 30 points a game with about 12 or 13 rebounds. When he takes over like this, he give the wolves the unique ability to spread the floor while having a big man who can play 5 out when needed but can also punish smaller lineups down low.
The Andrew Wiggins effect
Unlike Joel Embid or Kristaps Porzingis, Karl doesn’t have that co start who will help carry some of the load. Andrew Wiggins was supposed to be that guy. Unfortunately, for the wolves and Karl, Andrew has not been able to take off like everyone has expected and instead has become a plus minus nightmare who can get you twenty from time to time. Ultimately, his role in the NBA will most likely be that of a sixth man, but due to the lack of draft success outside of Karl, the wolves are going to have to get creative if they ever want to have a championship window. Unlike the Warriors and Lakers who play in nice locations and great weather, Minnesota will never be a place that top free agents want to play. For that reason, Minnesota will have to get creative with trades and start using the G League and advanced scouting to find hidden talent. Recently, their drafting of the safe pick has been a little bit questionable due to their need to maximize what will likely be only a few years with Karl unless they develop a contender. Small market teams have been able to do this in the past by gambling on high potential players and letting them develop. While Jarret Culver might pan out, he also looks to have the same strengths and weaknesses as Andrew Wiggins. Today’s NBA is more of a shooter’s league than it has ever been. Surrounding Karl with 3 and D players could be the key to unlocking the Wolves’ championship potential. Regardless of how the wolves capitalize on Andrew Wiggins or drafting supporting cast that complements Karl’s game, he has started of this season making the statement that he is not going to miss the playoffs without a fight.