How the Timberwolves New Faces Impact Karl-Anthony Towns
After an active offseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves seem set to end the NBA’s longest playoff drought this year. The Western Conference has also gotten even more formidable this offseason, particularly with the Oklahoma City Thunder acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, but Minnesota should win 45-50 games and earn a postseason berth.
Karl-Anthony Towns looks like a star for the Timberwolves to build around, so getting the most out of him has to be a priority. So how do Minnesota’s notable offseason additions impact Towns?
Minnesota’s biggest offseason move came on draft night, with the trade to acquire Butler from the Chicago Bulls. He will help a lot on both ends of the floor, with particular influence on Andrew Wiggins.
In terms of impact on Towns, Butler will surely guard the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer every night. Wiggins has been notably indifferent defensively to this point in his career, so there may be less unabated runs to the rim for Towns to try and deal with. He’s not necessarily foul-prone (2.9 per game last season), but his blocks per game average may go up (1.3 per game in 2016-17) with better defense around him. Butler will spearhead that as he reunites with Tom Thibodeau.
Teague will replace Ricky Rubio as the Timberwolves’ point guard, and he’s a notable upgrade in some key areas.
One is perimeter shooting, as Teague made close to 36 percent of this three-pointers last year and posted a 40 percent clip from beyond the arc in 2015-16. Compared to Rubio’s at-best sporadic competence as a shooter, Teague is at least a consistent threat to be dealt with.
The Timberwolves (per NBA.com) were the second-most efficient team in pick-and-roll situations last year, and Towns was second behind only Anthony Davis as the roll man in those situations. But their conversion rate on shots from the ball handler was sub-par, due to Rubio’s lack of proficiency.
Enter Teague, who was the eighth-most efficient pick-and-roll scorer among starting point guards last year and pick-and-roll situations accounted for 41.2 percent of his offense. At all three levels on the offensive end-beyond the arc, in the mid-range and at the rim, Teague is simply better than Rubio.
With Teague in place of Rubio as a more formidable all-round threat, Towns should be even better as the screener and roll man in the pick-and-roll. Better efficiency is never a bad thing, and Teague can make Towns a more efficient offensive player.
Gibson is another former Bull who is reuniting with Thibodeau, and he’ll add a much-needed capable big man to the bench.
Gibson is a power forward by trade, so he’s more likely to play with Towns than in place of him. But he could ease a bit of the defensive burden on Towns, who played 37 minutes per game last season and appeared to wear down at times. Gorgui Dieng is a solid player in the starting lineup alongside Towns, but Gibson can only help as an extra presence defensively and on the glass.
Jamal Crawford, Etc.
Veterans Jamal Crawford and Aaron Brooks have been signed to add to Minnesota’s backcourt depth, but Brooks is competing for a roster spot while Crawford is in line to be the sixth or seventh man. In Crawford’s case, his impact on Towns is sure to be mostly intangible as a veteran leader for the entire team.