There’s a lot of pressure on the Minnesota Timberwolves to compete at a high level this season, after the Karl-Anthony Towns-Rudy Gobert experiment never got to be fully realized last year due to an injury that kept Towns out most of the season.
This year, however, another 42-win season that results in an eight-seed and a first-round playoff exit isn’t going to cut it. And if they disappoint, changes could be on the way.
The most likely big-name trade candidate on the Wolves roster is Towns, who signed a four-year, $224 million extension with Minnesota last June that doesn’t kick in until next season, which will keep him under contract until the summer of 2028. The self-proclaimed “greatest big man shooter of all time” has hit 40% of his 3-pointers for his career and averaged 21 points, eight rebounds and a career-high five assists last season. At 6-foot-11 with a varied offensive skill set, it’s easy to see why Towns would pique teams’ interest if the becomes available.
One of the teams keeping an eye on Towns’ potential availability is the New York Knicks, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Post. Should that move happen, it would reunite Towns with Tom Thibodeau, who coached him in Minnesota. From Bondy:
“Although a seemingly poor fit together in Minnesota, multiple sources stated that Thibodeau would welcome coaching Towns again. That’s relevant if Towns hits the trade market, and the Knicks, according to sources, are monitoring his situation.”
Towns would immediately add a dynamic dimension to a Knicks offense that was surprisingly efficient (fourth in the NBA) during the regular season but sputtered in the postseason to the tune of 107.7 points per 100 possessions, ranking 13th among the 16 playoff teams.
The questions would come on defense, where Thibodeau notoriously demands excellence and also happens to be the area in which Towns has struggled throughout his career. Despite his size, he has never been an elite rim protector, and when he plays alongside another big man he is forced to guard smaller power forwards much of the time. This season will be a good test case to see if Towns can keep up with those types of players defensively. If he can, that will only make him more appealing to teams like the Knicks.
“Watching the progress he’s made throughout his career, he’s as gifted as they come,” Thibodeau said of Towns. “When you look at an offensive player, particularly a big, the skill set that he has — I think we all saw, to win the 3-point contest and stuff like that — there’s nothing he can’t do offensively. He has continued to get better I think.”