Let the Karl Towns corny town coming to the Twin Cities begin by this post.
The Wolves certainly look to be taking Karl-Anthony Towns with the number 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and folks like myself are very delighted. Not only is it a dream come true, but its the first time the Timberwolves have picked number 1 since the franchise started in 1989. While initially I wanted to write a comparison between Towns and Okafor, depicting how much better Towns was, it seemed that it let itself happen. The gap between the two grew further and further each day leading up until the draft. Now the Timberwolves have a prized franchise big man to carry the torch from Kevin Garnett. The beautiful thing is that Towns is a hybrid Center version almost of a young KG. The passion he plays with. The versatility to his game. How they both seem to redefine the position they play. But what will it mean with the Big KAT in a Timberwolves jersey?
First of all, the Timberwolves have a point-blank opportunity to build something special and its essentially Flip Saunders’ job now not to mess it up. The Wolves have Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammed, and Ricky Rubio as young-core pieces to build with Towns. Notice I didn’t say around Towns. I didn’t because, well its another ‘Town’ punchline and may be too many for one blog post, but also because the Wolves have multiple pieces to mesh together and the classic architecture of a franchise around a player does not work in todays day and age. Towns will be a part of the nucleus that can be built around. The Wolves have a good amount of second-tier prospects and savvy veterans that will help this core group grow.
The key to success is no secret. The Wolves will need to have their young core logging minutes together. It is absolutely essential that Wiggins, LaVine, Rubio, Towns, and even Shabazz build chemistry. If you look at any of the teams that have won a championship in the past decade, their core players had played at least a season together where they have failed in the playoffs before winning a championship. You can’t grab the best players in the NBA and put them on a team and expect them to win a championship their first year together. Ask LeBron James. Twice.
With this, the Wolves will need to start building an identity, which I think Flip Saunders has done a great job. He has built a team around athleticism that if they never win anything, will at least sell tickets. While Towns isn’t an incredible athlete, he is quite a bit more athletic than Okafor. Towns will throw down the occasional nasty slam. But the thing I think Towns will help this athletic bunch with is his passing in the post. I truly believe Towns will end up more like a Marc Gasol in the NBA than an Andrew Bogut. Passing out of the post will be a delight for guys like Wiggins and LaVine. And hoping that Rubio is healthy, I am sure Towns will get his share of alley-oops.
But the identity the Wolves are striving for and improving on is defense and shooting. Both things that the big KAT will step right in and help with. Towns comes in as one of the best defensive prospects in the last 8 years. His ability to defend the pick & roll will be light years ahead of what Dieng and Pekovic have been able to do. Towns also has the ability to block a lot of shots, which I am sure most people know by now. But Towns’ size will anchor the defense and the hope is he can learn a thing or two from Garnett to even further enhance his abilities. In terms of shooting, Towns has this secret ability to shoot the ball extraordinarily well and will see how that develops throughout his career. If Towns can step out and hit the three and develop a post game, he will certainly be a matchup nightmare for teams.
So what are the expectations for Towns? Well, there is no denying they are high. Kentucky produces amazing big men and the last big man to be taken out of Kentucky was Anthony Davis. I don’t think he will ever be that good, but Towns is the ideal two-way player that will be very valuable to be on the court for a team. He is young so it will take time, but the idea is that he should develop into the Robin-role with Wiggins as Batman, hoping he doesn’t have any problems with that. Towns won’t need to score a ton but the Wolves will absolutely depend on him to rebound, anchor the defense, and stretch the floor by hitting a few occasional shots. To me, the expectation is Towns is a 16ppg, 10rpg, and 2.5bpg consistently in the prime of his career. I would expect a couple All-Star games as well. But being the Timberwolves, I will be happy if he is just a reliable starter.