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Karl-Anthony Towns Has Became The Best Version Of Himself

Key Highlights

  • Through six playoff games, Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging 20.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists, while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor and 53.8 percent from beyond the arc (percent -70.1 true shooting)
  • Assisted by a career-high 84 percent of his tackles, he takes a back seat to Anthony Edwards.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves are 6-0 and two wins into their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 20 years.

Late in the fourth quarter of the Minnesota Timberwolves' Game 4 win over the Phoenix Suns, the league's best defense stomped their viral, roll-up, 15-second sweep that led to a turnover and snuffed out Phoenix's last chance to stretch. series. After a layup, Anthony Edwards hit a layup, Minnesota's lead grew to four and the Suns had no more possessions as their season quickly came to a close.

That streak featured many familiar faces shepherding the Timberwolves' premier, sprawling defense: ball pressure from Jaden McDaniels, feisty, yeoman post defense from Mike Conley, smart, exciting turnovers from Nickeil Alexander-Walker , Don't-you-dare. from Edward.

However, at the beginning of the game, Karl-Anthony Towns found himself facing Eric Gordon, who prepared himself on the three-forward wing. Instead, Towns blocked his air space, blocked the three, forced the pass and allowed the defense to stay in his shell. Then, he doubled Kevin Durant and caused the kick. Later, he turned to meet Bradley Beal inside and lofted another pass, which Alexander-Walker caught on a steal.

It was the kind of movement, precision and focus that helped transform Towns into an effective defender, a sign of his evolution and the defensive juggernaut Minnesota has even established as a title contender.

What Has Changed in Karl-Anthony Towns?

Through six playoff games, all of which the Timberwolves won, Towns averaged 20.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He is shooting 58.8 percent from two and 53.8 percent from deep (70.1 percent true shooting). After years of struggling with no success, turnovers, scoring success or a combination of the three during the postseason, the four-time All-Star is thriving in these playoffs (even in the face of ongoing foul trouble).

He has finally found the role that best suits his game to grow his title ambitions, while also adapting well to the changing tides around him. A skill set that has come together a nightmare to meet the labels – flexible shooting, driving, scoring – are still visible, they are simply re-targeted with obligations without the burden of continuous, complex decision-making, especially against pressure and two teams.

Towns is scoring goals as he always does, but the ways to use all of his tools have been simplified. A career-high 84 percent of his field goals are assisted — up from a career high of 75 percent during the 2017-18 season. His touchdowns per game (46.5) is a career low and his ERA (1.7) ties a career low since his 2015-16 rookie season.

While mistakes still plagued City's playing time against the Suns, he left the impression but took advantage of their lack of interior size and bulk, especially in the 4-spot. Whether it was Durant or Royce O'Neale, he often bullied their undersized defenders. He did the same thing when Jamal Murray was caught by him in the series.

Thanks to the presence of Rudy Gobert, the decline of Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves' dynamic gaps, the post touch is the feature, not the lifeblood, of his offense. They open up those opportunities by smartly positioning Gobert and using the threat of his forecheck, not being afraid to throw the court and initiate second-side actions.

That understanding benefits Towns and Minnesota's combined offense. Most of his uses start on the perimeter. He's constantly guarded by a small linebacker and while still facing a team that plays a rim protector, he's improving as a hitter.

According to, he is shooting 58.3 percent and averaging 6.2 points per game off drives, while turning the ball over on only 5.4 percent of them. In the last two competitions, he has turned the ball over on 8.3% (2021-22) and 13.3% (2022-23) of his drives. In fact, his 10.2 percent strikeout rate thus far dwarfs the 18.3 percent rate in his first three appearances.

The likes of Aaron Gordon, Kentavious-Caldwell-Pope, Murray, O'Neale and Durant can't slow him down. They are very small. There is nothing behind it in the decision-making of Muddy Cities or finishing angles. His touch and energy enjoy the runway to flourish.

Sometimes, City's out-of-town shooting is just a relief valve when teams exceed the habitable limit of Edwards' orbit. But Minnesota is active enough to make calls to him. He'll navigate open screens, often forced by Gobert's curling frame, or throw unevenly, where he fires up. His shooting depth is a boon for a rotation severely limited by such flexibility.

All of the Timberwolves' opponents are smaller than them. Without Conley (who enjoys contact and defense), this is a big, smash-mouth team that is meant to not only be big, but also very physical. Often working in the backfield, Towns sees moments when the action bends to him, setting up opportunities to showcase his size advantage as a play finisher.

He does not belong to some cleaning group that lives on deductions and cuts, but reads the floor carefully to punish the imbalance.

The year before Gobert arrived in the Twin Cities was Chris Finch's first full season as the Timberwolves' head coach. Since Towns still plays a big role, they chose to use him at the screen level instead of falling down, where he has been for most of his career. Dane Moore highlighted the drastic impact of that start on Minnesota's backcourt rotation here, but it also applies to City, who was thrown into comfort on the perimeter defensively.

All season long, he's worked to move his feet as a 4-man, rotate through gaps and provide help in the lane. He strives to stay connected in close quarters and carry the ball into space. This is the best defensive campaign of his nine-year career. They're the benefits established in 2021-22 that are now being lit up by a historically good defense. The playoffs were a continuation of this for Towns.

Look at him shaking the puppies, man. He had meniscus surgery on March 12th and returned to action on April 12th!

The discovery of Gobert – a productive defender dropped in a place where everyone is built to maximize their brilliance – and the rise of Edwards – with a kind-hearted title and bold approach – fueled Minnesota's rise.

But none of this happens outside of the Cities. The Timberwolves' victory is as much about him as it is about anyone else in the organization. His willingness to become a second star and facilitate the growth of his fan base. His willingness to switch positions for seven seasons and embrace all that comes with it on both ends. His determination to try to win on different, unusual, high terms.

So, as Minnesota moves forward, with Edwards' turbocharged star defining things offensively and Gobert's incoming, healthy limbs defining things defensively, Towns will be close. He will splash three on timely passes from Edwards. You will disturb the contrast of the bucket block. He will dance on the perimeter to avoid overextending the Frenchman's services and allow everyone to stay at home.

He'll be winning games in different, increasingly common ways and help usher in a new era of Timberwolves basketball — he and the entire franchise.

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