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Towns Making A Difference For Wolves Despite Offensive Struggles

by Julian Andrews
Web Editorial Associate Follow

The defining feature of Karl-Anthony Towns’ NBA career so far has been his ability to put the ball in the basket. However, in the early part of the 2018-19 season, things haven’t been going as planned for the Wolves big man on the offensive end. Towns is averaging 17.6 points per game, which if it holds (it won’t) would be a career low. Don’t let the scoring output fool you though—Towns is off to a great start.

Towns’ decreased scoring output has been due in large part to teams stuffing the paint and making it very hard for him to get touches around the rim. This has forced Towns to the outside and as a result, he’s taking more threes than ever before. He has responded by shooting a career-best 45.2 percent from beyond the arc. While it’s ideal to get Towns the ball in spots where he has a better chance of finishing inside, if he keeps up this three-point shooting opponents will have no choice but to leave the middle, opening things up for both Towns and his teammates.

However, while Towns’ three-point shooting has been great and certainly looks like it will continue to be a big part of his game, it’s his work on the other side of the ball that deserves the most attention. Towns has been criticized for his defense throughout his career, but it’s looking more and more like the patience the Wolves have had in him is paying off. It’s a commonly held understanding around the league that big men take longer to develop on defense than offense. The examples are there if you look: DeAndre Jordan, widely considered one of the best big man defenders in his prime, took a big leap forward in his fourth year in the league and Dwight Howard had a career-high block total in his fifth NBA season. Anchoring a defense is a tough task that requires great instincts about where to be when and it takes time for players to learn that skill. It seems like Towns is getting there this season.

Towns always had the ability to become a good defender. He’s extremely athletic and averaged 2.3 blocks per game in college. The physical tools have always been there, it was the mental aspect that was taking time. Now that mental part is catching up.

Monday’s game against the Lakers was a perfect picture of the player Towns has become so far this season—a multi-dimensional threat that can help his team win in many ways. He finished with a final line of 25 points, 16 rebounds including nine offensive boards, six assists, four blocks and a steal. Those six assists are especially impressive. You can see Towns looking for passes more and more these days—he’s thrown several great outlet passes and lobs this season and his passing out of the post is clearly improved as well. 

Towns’ passing and defense both boil down to a clearly growing understanding of the game and an ability to read and predict the movements of both his teammates and his opponents. As Town, still only 22, grows both physically and mentally the ceiling for his game may be even higher than we thought. If there’s one thing the last few weeks have shown us it’s that Towns is more than just a guy who can put the ball in the basket—he’s a potentially high-level defensive player with an ever-growing offensive game. In this day and age in the NBA, there’s nothing more valuable. 

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