- Karl-Anthony Towns, a former Rookie of the Year in 2015, is having a blistering start to the 2019 NBA season.
- The Timberwolves’ center signed a $190 million ‘super-maximum’ extension with the team in September 2018.
- His all-round game with dunks, rebounds, three-pointers and more is earning rave reviews.
Karl-Anthony Towns (Kat) is finally putting it all together. While his Minnesota Timberwolves have only played three games so far this year, Towns looks better than any of the oft-cited MVP candidates.
Names like LeBron, Kawhi, Harden, and Stephen Curry have been getting all the attention, but Towns is putting together numbers that blow them all away.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ Early Season Rampage
With new head coach Ryan Saunders at the helm, KAT has become the focal point of the team’s offense. He’s become their primary scorer, go-to playmaker, and defensive anchor. He’s started off the season with an absurd 51.2 PER rating (through two games). To put that in perspective, last year’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo put up a 30.95 PER. Towns is averaging a monster line of 32 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, and 5 assists.
While these numbers will likely dip as the season progresses, Towns is starting the season with aggression we haven’t seen from him before. Just look at this highlight reel from Friday’s game against Charlotte. He’s hitting threes, mashing dunks, blocking shots, and playmaking like a point guard. Oh, and he’s seven feet tall.
KARL. ANTHONY. TOWNS.
37 PTS / 15 REB / 72.2 FG%
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 26, 2019
He’s doing literally everything that makes Giannis great, plus he’s hitting five threes a game. It’s not crazy to say that Towns could be further along developmentally than the Greek Freak. But how is it possible that such a talented player is suddenly surprising us?
The Jimmy Butler Effect
Ever since Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns won back-to-back Rookie of the Year awards, the Timberwolves were pegged as the team of the future. NBA general managers voted Towns as the player they’d most want to start a franchise with prior to both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. And then, the Wolves traded for Jimmy Butler.
Minnesota had one successful season with Butler and the next year, he lit everything on fire. Butler’s infamous practice emasculated Towns and Wiggins and left the franchise in a tailspin. Charles Barkley called Towns soft on national TV. Analysts questioned his leadership. After finally trading Butler to Philadelphia in 2018, the Wolves missed the playoffs
All-Star Jimmy Butler participated in Minnesota's practice, a session that included him verbally challenging teammates, coaches and front office, league sources told ESPN. Butler was vociferous and emotional at times, targeting Thibodeau/Layden/Towns/Wiggins. Story soon on ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 10, 2018
By the 2018-2019 season, Towns didn’t even make the top six in the GM survey for franchise players to build around. It seemed like the entire NBA world had forgotten just how talented Karl-Anthony Towns really was.
Kat is Landing on His Feet
Towns used this offseason to build the one basketball skill he lacked: leadership. He took his teammates to the Bahamas and he gave them all a copy of “The Prophet,” by Kahlil Gibran. While these things don’t guarantee leadership or success, it shows that he’s trying. Teammate Josh Okogie told the Star Tribune about Kat’s transformation:
“I’ll say for one, he’s definitely more confident. Last year, it was kind of like, especially the start of the season with Jimmy — it was him and Jimmy. And then when Jimmy left, I don’t want to say he wasn’t ready, but that confidence that I’ve seen now wasn’t there. Now, he’s more vocal.”
While it’s still very early in the season, the Timberwolves are 3-0 and Karl-Anthony Towns finally looks ready to be the undisputed face of a franchise.