Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns is looking more like himself

Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves fights through the Houston Rockets defense. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves fights through the Houston Rockets defense. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Don’t look now, but Karl-Anthony Towns is rounding into form and finally is looking like his All-NBA self for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

After a strong start to the season was halted not once, but twice, due to first a wrist injury and then a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, the two-time All-Star struggled to be as dominant as he’s been for much of his career.

But since the All-Star break, Towns has been on a tear that mirrors his last couple of campaigns, prior to the wrist injury that’s plagued him now for over a year.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns is looking more like himself

On the season, Towns numbers still don’t quite resemble what he has done from his first All-Star season in 2017-18, through the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 NBA season.

Over those three seasons, Towns averaged 23.4 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists while shooting 52.6 percent from the field, 41 percent from deep on 4.7 long-range attempts per game, and 83.6 percent from the free throw line on 5.6 attempts per contest.

In the Wolves’ 14 post-All-Star break games this season, Towns has put up 27.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists while shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 39 percent from deep on 7.5 attempts per game, and 84.6 percent from the free throw line on 6.5 attempts per game.

What stands out? The scoring is up significantly while the efficiency is slightly inferior, but the assist rate and free throw rate are both up.

This falls in line with what Chris Finch said he wanted to do when he took the Wolves head coaching job. He wants to run everything through Towns, and that means that the superstar big man will have both a higher usage rate and a higher assist rate.

Towns’ free throw rate was absurdly low pre-All-Star break, and it wasn’t necessarily his fault. While his 3-point rate was down slightly, he simply wasn’t getting the benefit of the whistle, which is something that Finch noted publicly following the Wolves’ loss to Memphis on Friday.

Now, he’s starting to get more calls, and with an increase in both post touches and opportunities to handle the ball on the perimeter and initiate offense, we should see that free throw rate continue to climb.

In the last eight games, Towns has had three stat-lines with double-digit free throw attempts. In his 16 games played prior to this stretch, that only happened once.

As Finch continues to unlock various parts of his offense, and in turn, more opportunities for his best player, expect Towns’ numbers to get gaudier and gaudier, and the Wolves to start pulling out a few wins here and there.

Of course, another player or two will have to come to the points party a bit more consistently; just on Saturday, the Wolves had a bevy of missed open 3-point attempts. Adding more pure shooters to the roster will make a massive difference, as will any consistency that the likes of Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Nowell, and Jake Layman can make as spot-up shooters.

Towns finally appears to be in game shape after a couple of long, injury and illness-induced layoffs. Even without D’Angelo Russell and, for 10 of the last 14 games, Malik Beasley, Towns has made plenty of noise.

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We can expect to see a strong final six weeks from Karl-Anthony Towns. Now, it’s up to the coaching staff and the players around Towns to prove that they can win games with their best player bringing a dominant effort night-in and night-out.