Where to begin with KAT? First, doesn’t he look like a bad ass in that photo?
But on a more serious note, he’s the second consecutive home-run rookie acquisition for the Twolves in the past two years. He’s a big man with great skill and impressive athletic abilities, and he’s another two way prospect with huge potential.
So far, I’ve highlighted five players and a coach. These five players Twolves fans know quite a bit about. Four of those players are veterans. KG and Martin have been NBA mainstays for quite some time. Ricky and “The Godfather” are capable NBA talents who have showed promise but have been limited by overspecialized skill sets, and injuries to their lower extremities.
With Pekovic’s injuries, it seems logical to pencil in Karl-Anthony Towns as the starting Center as the season begins. He’s inexperienced, but he’s remarkably gifted and his potential is, for lack of a better term, off the charts.
This the KAT files, and in it I will review what makes him so valuable…
This is one of the biggest things that Karl-Anthony Towns brings to the Twolves pack. He has remarkable size, and can do a lot of different things.
Part A: Defense
Like Kevin Garnett once did, Karl-Anthony Towns projects to be great defensively. Last year for University of Kentucky, Towns had one of the greatest defensive ratings as any player in D1 NCAA basketball EVER. Of course teaming up with another freakishly versatile big man in Willie Cauley-Stein had quite a bit to do with that number, but it was their combined versatility that made them so effective.
Like Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns has ridiculous physical gifts. By size alone, he’s a legit NBA Center. Combine that with elite athletic ability he can cover a remarkable amount of court space. KAT looks primed to be an absolute top of the line rim protector. All Timberwolves fans know just how much they’ve struggled in that category.
Imagine Karl-Anthony Towns, Wiggins and Garnett. Those are two great young defensive talents teaming up with the old-man defensive anchor. That’s a pretty good looking defensive trio to have on a roster. If KAT can harness his impeccable physical gifts, he’ll be world class. His feet are quick. His vertical is top notch for a player of his size. These are all the physical gifts of a multifaceted defender who could defend at either the 4 or the 5.
Part B: Offense
Also like KG, KATs athleticism allows him to be versatile on offense. The same foot speed that benefits him on defense, also allows him to be a threat in the open court on offense. Towns can really run for a big man. This natural athleticism led him to develop his perimeter game as a young player. He came out of high school wanting to stretch the floor with his shooting and ball handing ability. Then at Kentucky, Coach Cal pushed him to develop as a low post option. KAT was Kentucky’s low post threat on offense and he became a highly efficient scorer on the inside.
Along with his scoring skills, Towns has also developed into an extremely effective passer. This is what stood out the most to me with Towns played during the Summer League. He showed court vision that cannot be taught. In both the KG files and the Nikola Pekovic files, I mentioned how big of a difference it can make when a big has the ability move the ball effectively. If KAT can continue to be an efficient post player, this passing ability makes him already wired to pass out of double teams.
The following Sports Science video, highlights his impressive skill sets.
These unique and remarkable skills show the level of potential he has to be an absolute monster on both sides of the court. The variety of things he can do on offense toss his potential up through the stratosphere. Not only that, but if he can continue to develop these versatile skills, he could fit into so many different kinds of offenses. He can run the floor and play on the perimeter. He has the athleticism to play Center and stick with a smaller player. He also has the skills the terrorize big guys with his Hardenesque handles.
Coming to University of Kentucky in a lot of people’s minds, may appear to be a selfish decision. UK is a top notch University and they have been absolutely sweeping the field in terms of recruiting. Consider this. Growing up as a highly talented basketball player, how many teams has KAT played on where he wouldn’t be the first offensive option. In high school I can only imagine that Karl-Anthony Towns could basically do the whatever he wanted.
At Kentucky the level of talent that Towns played with forced him to play a role. He took that role to heart and played twenty minutes per game, focusing on defense and scoring in the low post. Now he’s come into the NBA with the mentality of wanting to use his versatile skill set to benefit the team, anyway the coaches see fit.
Though it’s not truly one of my areas of expertise, sports psychology is one of my greatest interests. There are so many ways that mindset, what a player focuses on overtly and what their subconscious mind dictates, that effects how a player carries themselves and develops. Recent Twolves preseason games, have appeared to be more of the same. They are not making three point shots and not defending the three point shot very well, and this has let many people conclude that the team is and will still be abysmal on defense this season.
While this isn’t limited to KAT at all, I find Towns’ desire to play team first ball as a great sign for this teams development. As a young NBA stud there’s simply the sentiment growing up that you are the best. Stephon Marbury was dead set on being a number one guy on an NBA franchise. Allen Iverson was dead set on free lancing his way into the hall of fame. In this day and age, basketball development for young players seems to be all about the individual. Even the AAU circuit itself seems more interested in highlight reels than player development.
Psychologically, it would be easy for a player to come into the league without any genuine concept of coachability. And to me, this says something about Karl-Anthony Towns. Players have to have something that drives them. The have to have that chip on there shoulder or that undying effort to be great. What Karl-Anthony Towns is showing, is that he’s willing to put in the work to be a student of the game. He knows what he has accomplished and he’s remarkably confident in his abilities. Subconsciously, he may want to dribble up the court, take Jonas Valenciunas one on one on the perimeter and shoot a pull up three. Consciously he’s making effort to hit the books, study up on NBA 101, stick with in a system and learn from the coaches and the veterans that he’s surrounded by.
The NBA is full of highly skilled basketball players, much more so than even the highest level of NCAA college ball. For a guy coming off of one year of College ball with high school and AAU still near in his rear view mirror, there’s a lot to learn. Players do not get by on elite talent alone in the NBA. Karl-Anthony Towns’ intense desire to succeed and drive to learn is going to place his development on a fast track. This coachability must be highly valued.
Karl-Anthony Towns is limited by one thing: experience. There was so much talk pre-draft of if it is okay to draft someone with the first pick in the NBA who only played twenty minutes per game. KAT has responded that he was always in forty minute shape. He even went as far as to say that he feels as though he’s in sixty minute shape. While he hasn’t seemed to be laboring at all through a few games, an eighty two game NBA season is still way more high-level hoops than he’s ever experienced.
No matter his level of talent, KAT will still have to adjust a lot to the speed of the game. Mentally, shots that were wide open in college and at lower levels will be contested. Moves that freed up copious space will be effectively defended. This will make shot selection and decision making a bit of a struggle in the early going. I could see him either starting the year considerable over aggressive or he could begin by completely over-thinking. This, of course, is the same for any rookie. It’s part of the learning curve.
Value Assesment: A-/A+
You may be wondering: what kind of files is that? We are barley a thousand words in and it’s already time for a value assessment? Truth is, most of KAT’s value in in potential. His physical traits are great. Combine those with the skills he’s already developed and the drive that he has to learn the nuances of the NBA game, I can’t see him becoming anything worse to a super solid NBA big on both sides of the court.
In the case of Karl-Anthony Towns, right now stepping on to an NBA court to me he grades out automatically as a B+. With out any future development, without any pointed coaching, KAT’s current skills and raw physical abilities make him immediately valuable. The extent of what he can accomplish in the future though, is truly amazing. KAT has been compared to KG. With his size, versatility and balanced two-way-player skill set he could turn the league upside down.
This is a look Twolves fans have seen quite a bit from Kevin Garnett over the years. If he can take KGs mentor-ship seriously and use his skills at a similarly insane high-motor way, the NBA had better look out. He brings to the table just about everything that could be asked for from a modern day NBA big.
I can’t wait to see him running the floor with the pack, giving Rubio another great option. Imagine the pick and roll or pick and fade potential with him and Ricky. Imagine the inside outside game and how much space it can create for other shooters and slashers. At this point KAT looks really good. Though, if anything speaks of the danger of potential, it’s a guy like this. He has all of the tools to be great, but now he has to prove he can use them against the greatest players in the world. I’m excited to see what happens, and equally excited because he will be given every opportunity to succeed this year. It will be fun to see the KAT-wolf be set loose on the NBA. Apparently, he’s like CatDog but, more entertaining, more ferocious, and better at basketball … oh and he only has one head.