This is a story about two guys named Kevin and a guy named Karl. The similarities these men share are more than phonetic. They each epitomized the modern version of a big man in the NBA, they each had the best individual seasons of their careers for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and they each wish they’d won more games in that uniform.
It’s too late for either Kevin to change that, but there is still plenty of hope for Karl.
Hope may feel like a strange word to associate with a franchise that has made the playoffs once in the past 16 years. But it’s still an appropriate one.
Here’s how the Karl-Anthony Towns era can be the most successful era of basketball in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ history.
Comparing Minnesota Timberwolves supporting casts
To be clear, nobody on the Timberwolves roster feels likely to usurp Kevin Garnett as the best Wolf of all time.
Towns is already on par offensively, but a chasm separates them on the defensive end. There is still ample time for the 25-year old to narrow that gap, but expecting him to make a leap from defensive liability to perennial All-NBA stopper is more optimistic than Charlie Brown preparing to kick a football.
The good news? Towns doesn’t need to surpass Garnett. But Anthony Edwards projects to surpass Garnett’s best Timberwolves teammate by a country mile.
Thought experiment: Who was Kevin Garnett’s best teammate on the Minnesota Timberwolves?
It could have been Terrell Brandon. He made two All-Star appearances and gave the Wolves a strong 17.1 points and 8.9 assists in the 1999-2000 season. Wally “Spelling Bee” Szczerbiak is another candidate. He was an All-Star in 2002 and averaged 20.1 points while shooting 40.1 percent from deep in the 2005-06 season, although it’s worth noting he was shipped to Boston midway through the year.
In terms of sheer talent, it was probably Stephon Marbury, but he and Garnett parted ways when both were still too young to be likely candidates to compete for an NBA championship together.
Whichever name you prefer, the expectation is that Anthony Edwards will exceed all of them. Frankly, if Towns and Edwards are considered a 1 and 1A package in a matter of a few short years, it won’t be the least bit surprising.
Edwards was the No.1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. With all due respect to the historically underrated point guard, he’s supposed to be better than Terrell Brandon.
In fact, so is D’Angelo Russell. In 2021, it’s difficult to talk about the Minnesota Timberwolves without mentioning that up until April of this season, he and Karl Anthony-Towns had played six games together in the year-plus that they’d both been on the roster. We’re still talking about a No. 2 overall pick who is a mere season removed from averages of 23.1 points and 6.3 assists per game and was an All-Star in 2019.
In the event that D’Lo can get his body right, he may provide a better third wheel for Towns and Edwards than Garnett ever had as even a second option.
This franchise failed to surpass Kevin Garnett with a sufficient supporting cast. It seems the Wolves may have learned from that mistake because they possess 3 star-caliber players in the 25-and-under club.
With better injury luck, defensive growth from Towns, overall growth from Ant, and some appropriate role players, that should be enough to field a better squad than they ever did from 1995 to 2007.
No Love for the Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Love Era?
As previously mentioned, Kevin Love epitomized (and still does) the modern NBA big.
Well, so does Frank Kaminsky. That doesn’t make him a franchise player.
Frankly, the Kevin Love era is due for revision. The Timberwolves mistook a high-quality, fringe All-Star for a franchise centerpiece and it consistently showed in their record.
Granted, Love put up some godly numbers for the Pups. His skill set was tantalizing: how many guys can drain 41.7 percent of their threes while hauling in 15.2 rebounds a night? And he was the best outlet passer since Wes Unseld?
Nobody’s denying that Kevin Love was (and with health, may still be) a high-quality NBA player. Yes, better than Frank Kaminsky.
However, his rise to prominence coincided with a league trending away from relying on a slow, immobile big with a so-so handle.
Love lacked the shot-creation, ball-handling, and athletic ability to be a franchise player. Those 15 rebounds a night weren’t optimal in his hands when he was incapable of initiating offensive sets. In today’s league, we see players like Luka Doncic, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden producing large rebounding numbers because their coaches specifically scheme to get the rebound in the hands of their best playmaker.
Love may have epitomized modernity, but building around him as your primary offensive option was downright Draconian.
Regardless, the Wolves surrounded him with role players who would complement a superstar, like Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic. The result was a lot of 35 to 42 win seasons.
Enough with dwelling in the past though, because everything we just said Kevin Love wasn’t?
Karl Anthony Towns absolutely is.
He can beat opposing centers to the rim. He can create unassisted threes with his ball-handling. He can grab a board, run the floor and get a bucket. Offensively, he can do it all.
In simple, absolute terms: he is better than Kevin Love ever was, and it should follow that his Timberwolves will be too.
This is a story about two Kevin’s from the past, a Karl in the present, and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Garnett era was marked by the failure to surround a bonafide superstar with enough talent. The Love era was marked by the failure to acquire a bonafide superstar.
The KAT era has the potential to be defined by two bonafide superstars, a borderline All-Star and some savvy vets.
That sounds like the best era of Timberwolves basketball yet.