Despite entering the 2022-23 NBA season with a stacked roster, the Minnesota Timberwolves seem to yet to discover their lineup’s maximum potential, now standing with an 11-12 slate at a 0.478 winning rate.
The Wolves’ offseason efforts, specifically the Gobert trade, successfully paid off in the preseason, dropping just a single match in their five exhibition games. However, the team’s woes started to erupt beginning of the regular season, landing them to the 11th seat in the Western Conference.
Among these struggles include the lack of consistency and chemistry among Minnesota’s starters, with them having a hard time finding their footing both on the offensive and defensive ends.
In relation with this, Karl-Anthony Towns, who was deemed to lead the Wolves to a back-to-back playoffs appearance, has had more down than up moments throughout the season’s run. Currently, KAT is sidelined by a right calf injury and is expected to be out for four to six weeks.
With Towns’ struggles hurting the team’s playoffs chances not only this season but possibly in the upcoming ones, should the Wolves trade KAT?
BIG KAT NO MORE?
Towns earned the monicker “Big KAT” after coming in big for the Wolves since joining the squad in 2015. However, with the way his season has been going, is he still the Big KAT we once knew?
As a rookie, the 7’0″ center-forward averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and two assists after suiting in for the Wolves in all 82 games. KAT also emerged as the second leading scorer for the team next to now-Warrior Andrew Wiggins. In the same year, Towns bagged the Rookie of the Year award, living up to the spectators’ expectations after being the first-overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Towns continued to provide the guns for Minnesota in his sophomore year. His 25.1 points per game, along with 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 0.7 steals were enough to lead the Minneapolis-based squad to 31 wins.
The 2015 R1 first pick also led the team in terms of scoring, generating 2061 points behind an impressive 54/36/83 shooting split. A dynamic offensive cog, Towns finished as the fourth-best center in the 2016-17 NBA season.
A Slight Fall From Grace
The following season, the New Jersey native led the Wolves to their first playoff appearance since 2004 before eventually falling into the hands of the Houston Rockets after five games in the opening round.
Towns’ mastery of mid-range and long-range shots was the key for the Wolves in that season, tallying career-highs 54.5 percent efficiency from the field and 42.1 from beyond the arc. In the same season, KAT tallied a 4.5 differential, his best in his growing seven-year NBA career.
He continued to become instrumental for Minnesota in the succeeding seasons. Behind Towns’ impressive numbers, the Wolves successfully got back to the playoffs in the 2021-22 season. However, KAT struggled in the six-game playoffs battle against the Grizzlies, with his outstanding 3.7 regular season differential dropping to -1.7 in the playoffs summarizing the decline in his performance in the final stretch of their run in the said season.
After 21 games this season, KAT averages 20.8 points per game, backed by 8.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 0.7 blocks. Going back, is he still the Big KAT we once knew? Probably. If the Wolves’ front office decides to keep KAT, they will have to be patient with him until he rediscovers the Big KAT in him.
KAT has become the 19th player in @NBA history to reach 500 games with 11k+ PTS and 5k+ REB. 👏#RaisedByWolves pic.twitter.com/OmnRlqRsok
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 24, 2022
GOBERT-TOWNS DUO THIS SEASON
After failing to advance to the conference semis in the previous season, the Wolves invested in three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert in their hopes of making Minnesota a legitimate contender this season.
Gobert’s addition had the Wolves lose five players and five picks, which included the likes of Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt, who were all reliable role players that helped Towns bring the team back to the playoffs last season.
On the brighter side, Gobert’s addition meant that KAT will have a reliable teammate to partner with. Hence, the Gobert-Towns duo was hyped.
Towns, who was originally the team’s starting center, had to move to the four to give way for Gobert. This move was assumed to benefit the Wolves as Gobert was a good defender but a minimal offense contributor for the Jazz, while KAT has been an efficient long-range shooter but a minimal defensive contributor for the Wolves.
However, the duo has not had much opportunity to complement one another’s skills after sharing the court a couple of times this season, as the situation is usually the other half is either struggling or out while the other is on top of his game.
In addition, it also does not help that the rest of the squad’s starters have not been in sync a couple of times since the beginning of the regular season. Anthony Edwards, for example, usually struggles driving toward the basket as Towns and Gobert both clog the paint. D’Lo Russell’s excellent passing and mediocre shooting add to Minnesota’s woes as well. Good thing, the team has a reliable bench to bank on in times like these.
Rudy Gobert on #TWolves: “We all got to raise our level” after Karl-Anthony Towns injury. https://t.co/WRxcW7QWcg pic.twitter.com/iIcmuGTRlj
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) November 30, 2022
GIVE KAT MORE TIME
Based on the contract KAT signed, the idea of him getting traded to other teams is not possible until the next off-season. Meanwhile, Towns is expected to be back on the court sometime in January, and of course, most hope he will finally find his groove by that time.
Earlier this season, KAT was also sidelined by an infection. It took him a couple of games to eventually find his footing.
The team can give him more time again, this time after his calf injury. Towns have proven himself through and through since joining the team in 2015, and he is surely driven to prove himself once more when he finally makes his return to the court.
KAT just needs enough time to do so, and he surely hopes the team will give him the time he needs to find his footing.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KAT! 🎉 pic.twitter.com/DMNEBnaKOJ
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) November 15, 2022
Despite all these being said, the decision on whether or not to trade KAT by the time he is eligible for trading is only in the hands of the team’s front office.
However, it will all boil down to Towns’ performance once he makes his return in January. Will he ever be on top of his game again? We will see.
The Towns-less Minnesota Timberwolves will face the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday at the Target Center.
Credits on Featured Image: By Erik Drost, Flickr and Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 4.0,