In recent years, however, Towns has fallen victim to a common narrative amongst NBA fans and media: winning bias. Players like Devin Booker and Bradley Beal have also been misjudged as a result of this vacuous principle, although the former’s recent run to the Finals helped squash those misjudgments.
In short, fans tend to devalue individual performances if the individual’s team isn’t successful – the ever-underwhelming Timberwolves in Towns’ case – rather than acknowledging that basketball is a team sport and that one player can’t do everything. It certainly felt like Towns had to do everything last year.
Since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, Towns has been one of the most offensively-gifted big men in the league, with the only real criticisms including a lack of team success and some perceived defensive deficiencies.
Last year, however, Towns cemented his spot as one of the best offensive bigs of all time.
For one, his passing aptitude has continued to improve. His assists per game have improved at an almost linear rate since his rookie year, from 2.0 assists per game in 2015-16 to 4.5 assists per game in 2020-21, but they don’t tell the full story. He often records great passes out of doubles which lead to two to three more passes, and then a bucket; a credit to his immense offensive gravity and generational offensive talent.
In the 2020-21 season, during which 52.8 percent of his total field goal attempts were jump shots, Towns averaged 24.8 points per game on 61.2 percent True Shooting — historically great numbers in one of his worst scoring seasons. And contrary to popular belief, his defense has improved massively. He may still not positively impact the game on that end, but he is absolutely more focused on defense nowadays with ever-improving awareness and help defense.
Towns possesses MVP-level talent and production on offense, plays passable defense, and is a top-three player at his position.
As for the team success thing, which, again, is the only other thing he’s truly lacked in previous years, the upcoming season might just be the first time the Timberwolves reach the playoffs since 2018. The Wolves’ Big Three (Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards) recorded an offensive rating of 124.18 when on the court together, albeit in a small 327-minute sample size.
That offense combined with some of Minnesota’s complementary defensive pieces — including recently acquired tenacious point-of-attack defender Patrick Beverley — could cause serious damage in the Western Conference. There’s also the expected continuing emergence of second-year forward Jaden McDaniels, who played All-NBA level defense in stints last year.
Karl-Anthony Towns may not be a favorite for the coveted award, but his talent, production, and predicted team success makes it likely that he’ll be in the running.