Karl-Anthony Towns is ready to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 30: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 30: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have entered a new era, and they’re relying on Karl-Anthony Towns to embrace his role as a leader. It appears as though he’s up to the challenge.

This is the first time in three years that the Minnesota Timberwolves will enter the season with Karl-Anthony Towns as the team’s undisputed best player.

Last year, the Jimmy Butler saga was at full tilt, with Butler preparing to roll out his alter ego, General Soreness, as trade rumors swirled.

Back in the fall of 2017, Butler, Jeff Teague, and Taj Gibson were newcomers, and it was Tom Thibodeau’s second season at the helm. Optimism was at its highest level since Kevin Garnett‘s prime, and Towns was happy to defer to Butler as the team’s best player and leader.

Three years ago, Towns was 21 years old and coming off of his Rookie of the Year campaign. He was preparing to lead a team that had won just 29 games a year before and was under a new coach in Thibodeau.

Expectations were growing, but the team’s three best players were still Towns and Ricky Rubio, and Zach LaVine was going to be counted on to make huge improvements on both ends of the floor. Rubio was the team’s leader, and Towns was just starting to truly break out and become a bonafide star.

Fast-forward three years, and Towns is the team’s lone All-Star, and the only player on the roster to have even sniffed that sort of recognition save for Jeff Teague’s lone appearance back in 2015 as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. That means he’s the de facto leader, and as a 24-year-old entering his prime years, it’s time for him to take the proverbial bull by the horns.

The 2018-19 season was understandably messy, and it wasn’t Towns’ fault; Butler sabotaged the season and Thibodeau did nothing to stop him.

Now, Towns has a clean slate, a coach he loves, and a team that’s talented and deep enough to challenge for a playoff spot. This team won’t come close to challenging for home court advantage in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference, not until they find or develop a second All-Star-caliber player, but Towns should be able to get them within shouting distance of the postseason.

And everything about the superstar big man’s public persona this summer has suggested that he’s up for the challenge. The team’s identity is changing, and Towns has acknowledged that publicly. He truly is leading the way along with new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.

And his confidence in himself as well as the new regime led him to assist in a heavy recruiting process for fellow stars during the free agency period. New additions such as Jordan Bell have talked openly with the media about how excited they are to work with Towns.

Towns’ most recent comments to The Athletic are fairly clear: he wants to stay in Minnesota. Here’s a small part of what he told Jon Krawczynski (subscription required):

"“We have such a great game plan going in,” Towns said. “We have such a great front office and coaching staff. Everyone is so great at what they do and we’re so connected. It’s amazing when not only are the players so connected, but the whole organization on the back end is connected.”…“The biggest thing when you have that conversation is you say, ‘Is he happy here?’” Towns said. “I’m tremendously happy. I love my front office. I love my coaching staff. I think we’ve made great moves and great changes. I love the culture we have here. If you want to leave, you have to be miserable somewhere. I am not there. I’m planning to be in Minnesota for a long time.”"

If you have a subscription, head on over to The Athletic. Krawczynski does a great job laying everything out and there are some other good quotes from Towns.

It’s inescapably clear that Towns is ready to take yet another important step in his development. This is a roster that will — that must — feature Karl-Anthony Towns. There are no other true, top-flight scoring options. The supporting cast should be decent, and the defense improved.

Next. The Timberwolves are finally embracing the modern NBA. dark

If Towns can put together another All-Star year and take a step into the next tier on defense, this team could challenge for a playoff spot.