May 4, 2018, 10:00 pm
The offseason is still in its infancy stage, despite 22 of the 30 teams watching the action from the sidelines, or their television sets or not watching at all. Before things really kick into high gear, we’re going to run through a series about the players on the Wolves from this past season. We’ll recap how they performed individually, how they performed as a greater part of the team and what their future holds, whether it’s contractually, role-wise, trade rumors and everything in between.
We’ll kick the series off with an underhand toss, an easy one to get our feet wet.
Karl-Anthony Towns is the young face of the franchise, the 22-year old who still looks like a kid but plays like a veteran in this league. KAT is one of the most efficient players in the NBA while scoring all over the floor, and is a dominant rebounder. He’s averaged 21.6 points per game in his career, with 11.7 rebounds while shooting 54.3/38.7/83.6 percent from the field/3-point/free throw in his career while exhibiting supreme durability, playing in all possible games since his debut.
KAT is one of the most offensively gifted big men in the NBA with an ability to score inside and out comfortably. He was able to step in on day-one and become a dangerous offensive weapon, and has only gotten better with time. Defensively he is quite far behind his offense and despite his size is a bit of a “tweener” not quite strong enough to hang with physical bigs, but not quick enough to guard modern NBA power-forwards.
Despite that, Towns is the present and future for the franchise and only needs to become an average defender to be a perennial MVP candidate.
2017/18 Stats: 82 G | 82 GS | 35.6 MP | 21.3 PTS | 12.3 REB | 2.4 AST | 0.8 STL | 1.4 BLK | 1.9 TOV | 54.5 FG% | 42.1 3P% | 85.8 FT% | 59.6 eFG% | 22.9 USG% | 114 ORate | 108 DRate
Statistically, Towns had career-high percentages across the board, except for his USG rate which was understandably lower with the arrival of Jimmy Butler. As a result of the lower use, his points and shot attempts fell from last season. The lower use doesn’t take away from his incredible efficiency, though.
In fact he took more 3-point attempts this season, but made them at a significantly higher clip (36.7 percent last year). His effective field goal and true shooting percentages were, by far, a career high as a result as well. Towns ranked in the top-10 in both eFG percentage and TS percentage among qualified players.
As the images below show, courtesy of NBA.com/stats, Towns was above average from every spot on the floor.
The top number is his percentage, the middle number is the ‘League Average’ percentage and the bottom number is his percentage of attempts from a certain area.
Breaking the chart into just six zones generalizes it somewhat, but in the grand scheme shows that KAT was reliable in all of the major areas on the floor; at the rim, in the paint, from the mid range, from the corners and from the angled 3-pointer. A more detailed chart shows that in some areas he was stronger, particularly from straight on and the corners.
Pretty much anywhere he spotted up, outside of the right wing, Towns was the guy you wanted taking the shot. For a 7-footer to shoot this efficiently is almost unheard of, even by Dirk Nowitzki standards.
Towns was the model of consistency all year long, shooting above 50 percent in all but one month (49.8 percent in November). He was at his best from December through February, not coincidentally when the Wolves were also playing their best basketball of the season. Throughout the year, though, he could always be relied on for double digit points and double digit rebounds.
He scored 10 or more in 80 of his 82 games and picked up 68 double doubles, six more than the runner-up. His 181 double doubles since entering the NBA three seasons ago is the most in that span as well.
That rock-solid consistency and pure shooting was certainly felt whenever he stepped onto the floor and sorely missed when he was on the bench. His offensive rating of 113.6 (sixth among qualified players) and defensive rating of 107.7 were excellent for the team when he was on the floor. When Towns stepped off the floor, the team’s ORating fell to 103.1 and DRating jumped to 110.3.
Even with Towns mostly criticized for his defense, the team got worse in that regard when he stepped off the floor (granted, the Wolves’ bench had some to do with that). Undoubtedly Towns’ weakest portion of his game is his defense. He was abused by strong, physical centers like Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard, and would struggle to get out on stretch bigs.
Despite that, he was noticeably improved this season, especially as time went on. His footwork was the biggest problem as he was often getting his legs tangled, but as the season progressed he was better about shuffling around the court and staying in a defensive stance. He’s always had solid instincts blocking shots at the rim from the weak side, and in the playoffs showed improved pick-and-roll defense.
Examining the numbers closer, Towns was a victim of his teammates’ defensive deficiencies, particularly Jamal Crawford and Gorgui Dieng. With Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Taj Gibson, his defensive rating was by far the best, and even with Nemanja Bjelica and Tyus Jones, his defensive rating remained rather consistent. When he shared the court with Crawford or Dieng, though, his rating jumped significantly.
With Crawford and Towns sharing the floor, Towns’ defensive rating was 113, with all other players it was 105. Crawford was consistently getting beat off the dribble and Towns was the last line of defense. His defense isn’t on the level of Rudy Gobert, so he struggled to hold the line. When his teammates were holding their own, he proved to be much better.
There’s still room to improve, and Towns will likely never be a defensive anchor in his career, but he’s not a complete statue. In fact that four-man unit of Butler, Wiggins, Gibson and Towns had a 92.9 defensive rating in the first quarter this year, an elite mark. Before Thibs started to pepper in his substitutes, the Wolves’ defense more than held their own, including Towns.
He will be the first to say his defense must improve, but there were noticeable steps made throughout the year. If the Wolves can add some good defensive pieces this offseason and take even more pressure off him, perhaps he can make his defense a non-issue.
His offense is irreplaceable, though. On a team that struggled to guard multiple positions and missed their veteran leading scorer for a stretch, Towns had to come through on multiple occasions with his offense, including a night where he scored a franchise-record 56 points.
Overall Towns had a smooth season. He was dependable, wasn’t involved in any drama and most importantly stayed healthy. He was rewarded for it both individually (All-Star appearance, potential accolades) and as a team (postseason).
Towns was invited to the NBA All-Star game by his peers, making his first appearance in the game itself. He’s participated in the weekend festivities in past years, but this marked his first season as an All-Star, with many more to come in his future.
KAT was also instrumental in getting the Wolves into the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, though it didn’t go quite as he may have hoped. His numbers were down across the board and was blamed for many of the Wolves’ offensive struggles. In the grand scheme of things, though, having that first playoff experience under his belt will only benefit him going forward. His first two games were brutal, but he showed signs of his normal self in the final three games of the series.
If Towns can take that humbling experience, funnel it into positive steps forward and come out next year on a roll, there could be even bigger things in Towns’ future.
Of all the players on the Wolves right now, Towns is probably the most secure. He’s young enough that the Wolves could, theoretically, launch another rebuild around him and have plenty of time to win with him in his prime. He’s also producing right now, as detailed above, and able to lead a playoff team.
In only his third year in the league, the Wolves control where Towns is headed for the foreseeable future. He is owed nearly $8 million next year in the final year of his rookie contract. As a result, he’s eligible for a contract extension this summer. Wiggins was eligible last summer, and signed a new deal in July.
The Wolves were willing to give Wiggins the max contract, and they will undoubtedly be willing to give Towns the max as well. There could be one difference between the two contracts that could allow Towns to see even more money.
Wiggins signed for the standard maximum extension for players with less than six years in the league, 25 percent of the cap with eight percent escalators. At this point that is Towns’ baseline. That would put him in line to earn $27 million in the first year of his extension, and sign for up to five years for a total of about $159 million.
However, there is such a thing called the ‘Rose Rule’ that basically is reserved for a very small percentage of players. The exception allows a player to earn 30 percent of the cap with eight percent escalators.
To qualify a player must win the MVP in their first four years, or qualify for an All-NBA team twice in their first four years (or once in their fourth year). A player may also negotiate this into the contract extension before qualifying, as James Harden and Anthony Davis both did (though neither ended up qualifying).
For Wiggins this was off the table, but for Towns it most certainly will be. He has a chance at getting on an All-NBA team this year (and typically when a player gets on once, they have a better chance in the future). He’ll have to absolutely blow up to win an MVP, but his talent gives him a shot to at least make it a consideration.
If he were to qualify, he would be set to earn $32,400,000 in the first year of his extension, and sign for up to five years for a total of about $190 million.
So going forward Towns certainly has plenty of motivation to evolve his game even further. He got a taste of the playoffs and should be eager to make a deeper run next year. He also has motivation to improve individually, though both go hand-in-hand. If Towns is able to take a positive step forward next year in his own performance, he’s likely carrying the team with him.
With plenty of motivation to stick around in Minneapolis financially, being one of the center pieces on offense and a having good core of players around him, Towns is one of the few players in the NBA that is as safe as they come.
August 18, 2019, 11:21 pmBogdan BogdanovicSG, Sacramento Kings
Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a team-high 28 points in Serbia's 85-80 win over Greece on Sunday.
Serbia will be a tough team to beat in the 2019 FIBA World Cup thanks to Bogdanovic, Nikola Jokic and Nemanja Bjelica among others. Bjelica put up 18 points and 14 rebounds as well. They were able to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 20 points. This is one of the teams that could sneak up on Team USA and pull out a win.
August 18, 2019, 10:36 pmJustin AndersonSG, Atlanta Hawks
According to The Athletic, the Wizards and Justin Anderson are trying to work towards a training camp contract.
Anderson averaged a career-low 9.6 minutes per game with the Hawks last season. The former first-round pick is looking to gain another opportunity on a thin Wizards team. He will likely not have much fantasy value if he manages to make the roster.
Source: Fred Katz on Twitter
August 18, 2019, 9:37 pmVictor OladipoSG, Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo is still rehabbing from his ruptured quad tendon in January, and is unsure if he will be an active participant at the Pacers' training camp when it opens in September.
Our last update from Pacers POBO Kevin Pritchard had Oladipo aiming for December or January, and that timetable still seems doable. He is taking his leadership role seriously, connecting with the Pacers' new players this summer, and it seems likely that he will make his presence felt this year at some point. Oladipo had an outstanding campaign two years ago, but even before the injury he was a disappointment last season. Fantasy owners should proceed with caution, we may not see Oladipo's top form this year.
Source: Indiana Pacers
August 18, 2019, 8:49 pmBol BolC, Denver Nuggets
Bol Bol stated that he has completely recovered from the left foot fracture that ended his college basketball career, and he is now working out twice a day for his upcoming rookie season with the Nuggets.
The multi-talented center could put up big numbers if given the opportunity with the Nuggets, but the risk for another injury is real. With that in mind, Bol is not expected to receive a lot of minutes this season. If that somehow changes, it would be exciting to see his rare combination of blocks and 3-pointers in action.
Source: Jim Slater of AFP
August 18, 2019, 7:26 pmDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are allowing the Lakers to speak with Dwight Howard.
The news came out yesterday that the Lakers would seek permission and the fact that they were granted it suggests that Howard will not be on the Grizzlies for long. The aftermath of DeMarcus Cousins tearing his ACL left them in need of another center if they want to remain true to playing Anthony Davis exclusively at power forward. Joakim Noah is the other option on the Lakers' radar and has been a facilitator and role player in the past.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 18, 2019, 7:18 pmMoritz WagnerPF, Washington Wizards
Moritz Wagner has been cut from Germany’s FIBA World Cup team.
The move seems somewhat surprising given Wagner’s youth and notoriety, but Germany still has four NBA players on their roster despite cutting Wagner. The Wizards have plenty of depth in the frontcourt and Wagner is probably lower on the totem poll when it comes to receiving minutes.
Source: Dario Skerletic of Sportando
August 18, 2019, 9:33 amJonah BoldenPF, Philadelphia Sixers
Jonah Bolden has opted to withdraw from Team Australia in the FIBA World Cup.
Bolden becomes the fifth NBA player to skip out on playing for Australia in the World Cup, a trend that seems to be prevalent for several countries' national teams. Bodlen could be looking at an increased role as a backup center for Philly's thin bench this upcoming season. He is not expected to be a relevant fantasy option though.
Source: Fox Sports Australia
August 18, 2019, 9:25 amJeremy LinPG, Toronto Raptors
Jeremy Lin is in advanced discussions with the Bejing Ducks according to a report from Chinese journalist Sonx Xiang.
Lin previosuly turned down a deal to play for CSKA Moscow, and has also discussed his openness to playing in China. The nine year guard still hopes to resmue his NBA career at some point, but a move to China may be the best career option for him at this juncture.
August 18, 2019, 9:18 amDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
The Lakers will soon ask Memphis permission to speak with Dwight Howard according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Shams goes on to mention that there is mutual interest here and that Joakim Noah could be another veteran of interest for LA. The realistic options for free agents at the five really don't go much further than these two for the Lakers. Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 18, 2019, 8:37 amDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
In the wake of the DeMarcus Cousins injury, one name the Lakers are considering is Dwight Howard, according to Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated.
Howard is still a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, but it is widely assumed that he will be waived before the season starts. A reunion in LA would certainly be pretty surprising for the Lakers after Howard famously did not resign with them after a miserable season playing with Kobe Bryant. Still, the Lakers need depth at the five and there really aren't any options on the market who compare to Howard's level of productivty, even at this stage of his career. Other center options the Lakers could pursue include Joakim Noah, Kenneth Faried and Zaza Pachulia.
Source: Rohan Nadkarni on Twitter