How Much Will We See KAT Facilitate In Wolves Offense?

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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Early in Timberwolves camp, there’s been a lot of talk of Karl-Anthony Towns being used more and more as a facilitator.

It makes sense. Towns is one of the best passing big men in the league. He used to play point guard growing up, but then the whole growing to seven-feet tall changed his position trajectory. While taller, he still has the ball skills needed to initiate an offense. 

Last season, Towns averaged a career-high 4.9 assists per 100 possessions. 

While we will likely see more of Towns in playmaking roles in 2019-20, most of the ball-handling will be done by the point guards.

“Just because there’s a lot of talk of KAT being the facilitator, that doesn’t mean he’s not getting the ball from a point guard,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said after Thursday’s practice. “People have talked a lot about thinking KAT’s gonna play point guard . . . What we want to do is move KAT around and put him in positions more at the top of the key area where he’s able to make plays.” 

Shabazz Napier didn’t have a direct comparison for Towns in the league. There really aren’t any big men who can handle the ball, pass and shoot like Towns can. 

“KAT’s game is so unorthodox. You don’t often see that, a big guy who can dribble the ball who can facilitate,” Napier said. 

One thing Napier did while he was in Portland two years ago was run the offense through big man Jusuf Nurkic. When Nurkic, a very good passer, had the ball down low, everyone became cutters, trying to find a hole in the defense for Nurkic to find them. Napier compared it similarly to what the Warriors do with Draymond Green down low. We saw that late last season with the Wolves and we'll probably see plenty more. 

More Efficient Shots For Wiggins

Something that’s been implemented by Saunders and Gersson Rosas this offseason has been efficiency shot charts throughout the facility. These are charts that mark what the average point of each shot attempted is from where it's taken on the court.

Spoiler alert: 3-pointers and layups are the best shots to take. 

One player the Wolves hope this will help is wing Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins has done a better job of being a willing 3-point shooter (a career-high 28.8 percent of his shots last season were behind the 3-point line). But the Wolves are hoping Wiggins can attack the basket more like he did earlier in his career. Just 26.4 percent of Wiggins’ shots came at the rim last season, a mark that’s down six percent from his second season in the league. 

It’s been something the Wolves have been stressing to Wiggins during camp.

“He’s been good when we’ve scrimmaged on attacking the rim,” Saunders said. “He’s been good so far, but obviously you want to see that growth to continue on a daily basis and then in competition . . . to make sure it translates.” 

A player with Wiggins’ athleticism should be getting to the rim more often than not, and if he’s not finishing there, that should result in more attempts at the free-throw line. 

Quick Hits

  • Saunders said there’s a focus on Josh Okogie to pick his battles in transition a little more often. We all loved Okogie’s energy as a rookie, but now it’s time to see how he can use that to make smart basketball plays.
  • After shooting 33.3 percent from deep last season compared to 37.6 percent the season prior, Saunders has plenty of confidence in Napier’s ability to shoot: “I’m not going to look at just one year, a percentage. In Portland, he made some jump. I’m seeing he can still be that guy.”
  • The Wolves will have practice off tomorrow before getting back at it on Saturday. 
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