We all want to know how Karl-Anthony Towns will fit into the new-look Minnesota Timberwolves offense. It’s nearly time to find out.
Throughout the offseason, a main focus of the conversation surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves has been on how superstar Karl-Anthony Towns will be used in the first full season under head coach Ryan Saunders.
Elements of his usage under Tom Thibodeau will undoubtedly be similar. He’ll be used plenty in the low post, where he is among the most efficient scorers in the league. He’ll still be used in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop games, too, where he’s deadly as a 40-plus percent shooter from beyond the arc.
However, there is reason to believe that Towns will be given more freedom to handle the ball and utilize his rare abilities as a 7-footer.
During training camp, the Wolves hinted that Towns may even be used more as a ball-handler in the pick-and-roll. Towns has shown flashes of great court vision for a big man during his career. Most of this has been from the low post, but it is definitely worth looking into whether an expanded ball handling role could unlock even more from his playmaking ability.
For instance, an increased role as a passer from the top of the key could be in the works. Towns himself had some things to say about this recently.
Karl-Anthony clearly values his ability to distribute the basketball and has put serious thought into how this will fit into the Wolves offense this season. Young wing Josh Okogie and rookie Jarrett Culver are both smart and talented cutters who may find themselves the recipient of plenty of easy baskets this season from Towns. Shooters like Robert Covington and Jake Layman could also benefit.
An example for the way this may be implemented is Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Towns is not the passer that Jokic is, admittedly, although that’s not much of a slight on him as very few big men in NBA history could claim to be on Jokic’s level in that regard.
However, Denver’s willingness to give him the ball at the top of the key and allow the offense to run through him is something that Wolves could try to implement with Towns.
The Nuggets at times also use Jokic as a ball-handler in the pick-and-roll, which the Timberwolves have hinted in training camp that they may try with Towns. In fact, Adam Mares of Locked on Nuggets tweeted about this parallel recently.
The ability of Towns to turn the corner and get all the way to the rim could very well cause a lot of switching, allowing not only Towns to attack a mismatch but also the screener with Towns’ defender switching onto him. If the screener happens to be Andrew Wiggins and the Wolves are able to get a lumbering big man switched on to him this could open up a lot of driving opportunities.
While Karl-Anthony Towns has been a star since putting on a Timberwolves jersey as a rookie, his usage under former coach Tom Thibodeau at times seemed unimaginative.
There were also points in which he was flat out underused. In fourth quarters teams sometimes focused all of their energy on keeping the ball away from Towns in the post, forcing others to beat them.
A more creative and well-rounded approach to using the Wolves’ All-Star center may be the way to keep teams guessing and to keep improving the overall offense.