Minnesota Timberwolves: A make-or-break year for Karl-Anthony Towns

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 19: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 19: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The fifth season in a young star’s career has often been a make-or-break year for plenty of household names. Will Karl-Anthony Towns follow that pattern for the Minnesota Timberwolves?

During each of their respective fifth years in the league, LeBron James won a scoring title, James Harden become an MVP candidate, and Giannis Antetokounmpo turned the Bucks in title contenders.

What will Karl-Anthony Towns do?

Towns will be entering his fifth NBA season with the Minnesota Timberwolves at only 24 years old and is signed to a super-max contract through 2024 that will net him over $160 million.

He’s a cornerstone player who averaged 24.4 points per game last season while shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 40 percent on 3-pointers. He averaged a double-double with 12.4 rebounds per game to along with 3.4 assists.

Towns is the unquestioned leader of the young Wolves and a quintessential superstar that general managers look to build around when constructing an NBA roster. But the Minnesota has only made the playoffs once during KAT’s tenure, and that coincided directly with the Jimmy Butler Era. There’s already sharks circling in the water on a national level, suggesting that if the Wolves fall out of contention early during the upcoming season, the team may field inquiries about KAT prior to the February trade deadline.

The first question is, why not trade Andrew Wiggins instead of Towns? If only the answer was that easy. Of course, Wiggins has been on a downward spiral over the last two seasons. He’s signed to a max extension through 2023 at nearly $30 million annually, yet his player efficiency rating (PER) of 12.4 ranks as one of the worst in the NBA for starters.

Wiggins shot just 41.2 percent from the field and under 70 percent from the free throw line over the past two seasons. His in-game dunks have gone down each of the past four years from 84, to 77, to 58, to just 39 last season. Since signing the max contract, Wiggins has become even more of a jump-shooter. Considering his albatross of a contract, getting a taker for Wiggins and, more importantly, assets at this point would be difficult.

This leads us to KAT. The Wolves need to win with KAT now otherwise his basketball career would parallel that of former T-Wolves great Kevin Garnett, who endured seven consecutive first-round playoff exits in Minnesota before they team executives finally decided to surround him with complementary players. When that didn’t work out, Garnett was essentially gift-wrapped in a trade to the Boston Celtics, where he would go on to win a championship.

(Of course, the Wolves have to have a string of success in actually getting to the playoffs consistently first, but that’s obviously not the goal.)

The Timberwolves have been down this road before with a superstar. Now, they have one legitimate superstar in Towns and another player on a superstar contract in Wiggins. The latter has to show more promise on both ends of the floor and needs to regain the confidence he demonstrated as a rookie when he was aggressive, willingly took the ball to the basket, and put defenders on posters.

For KAT, the expectations are higher. If LeBron, Harden, and Giannis each made a leap and catapulted their respective teams into true relevancy, then what will Karl-Anthony Towns do?

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The Wolves need to start winning and set themselves up to be title contenders in short order, but another dismal season would jeopardize KAT’s future in the Twin Cities .