Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns ranked as top-24 player

Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns was recently ranked as a top-24 player in the NBA.

Various media outlets have been releasing player ranking lists for years, and they’re almost always wholly unscientific. This time around, however, a well-thought-out system has the Minnesota Timberwolves’ best player ranked in the league’s top 24.

The Athletic’s Seth Partnow spent a few years leading the Milwaukee Bucks basketball research department and is currently a writer for The Athletic. Instead of the usual crowd-sourced rankings, or simply averaging out cumulative rankings from other analysts and writers, Partnow took this idea to the next level.

The result found the Wolves with two players in the NBA’s top 79 players, including a top-24 ranking for Karl-Anthony Towns.

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The rankings are over at The Athletic, which requires a subscription. Therefore, we can’t quote anything directly here, but let’s discuss the overarching takeaways from the article series.

Partnow began by laying out his methodology (subscription required), which includes five tiers, four of which have their own subgroups that further separate out the players. In short, the tiers were decided by a combination of wholistic advanced metrics (versions of adjusted plus-minus, mostly) and conversations with folks in the scouting community. Ultimately, the rankings were up to Partnow but he had input from plenty of other sources.

The first article was Tier 5, which included 46 players but no members of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Then, Tier 4, which included a pair of subgroups, the first of which had a series of players with Wolves ties.

Within tiers, Partnow did not rank players or assign individual numbers, so we don’t know the exact ranking of each player. But we do know that 125 players were ranked, and 46 were in Tier 5. That means that Tier 4B includes players No. 61 to 79.

Among those names were current Wolf D’Angelo Russell and former Wolves Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio.

Partnow’s analysis further separated the subgroup into categories describing their style of play. Russell was in the “Offensive Lead Guards” category, alongside LaVine, LA’s Lou Williams, and Russell’s former Brooklyn teammates Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. This group is made of players who are dynamic offensive talents that rely on, as Partnow puts it “decent-but-not-elite shot creation” but can’t quite carry their respective teams the promised land themselves.

For reference, similar players ranked slightly higher as part of Tier 4A (No. 37 to 60) include CJ McCollum, De’Aaron Fox, Goran Dragic, and John Wall.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns ranked as top-24 player

Tier 3 has three subgroups, and Towns managed to get into Tier 3A, ahead of the 13 players in Tiers 3B and 3C, which includes Bradley Beal, Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, and more.

Towns lands in the No. 17 to 24 range. Partnow says that with the “possible exception” of Denver’s Nikola Jokic, KAT is the best offensive big man in the game. Notably, he also says that Towns isn’t simply “an accumulator on bad teams”, and it’s his poor defense (bottom four among players on this 125-man list by Partnow’s calculation) that is keeping him from cracking the top two tiers.

Other players in Tier 3A include Bam Adebayo, Jamal Murray, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker, Jrue Holiday, and Ben Simmons.

This ranking feels remarkably accurate. If we’re assigning specific numbers, Towns would have to be ahead of Murray, Middleton, Walker, and Holiday. One could make an argument for Adebayo, Lowry, and Simmons landing ahead of him, which would put Towns right at No. 20.

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It’s a breath of fresh air to see a well-thought-out, metric-friendly ranking system. If you have a subscription to The Athletic, be sure to check out the series as it’s a fantastic read.