Karl-Anthony Towns could have been Nikola Jokic in another reality, but not this one

Karl-Anthony Towns could have been Nikola Jokic in another reality, but not this one


If you gotta say it, you ain’t it” is a phrase Minnesota Timberwolves big Karl-Anthony Towns never learned. During a recent appearance on the PatBevPod with former T-Wolves teammate Pat Beverley, Towns was inhaling too much of the copium pipe with Pat and in a fantastical excuse-making mood discussing the state of the T-Wolves. In Towns’ opinion, Minnesota reaching the 2022 playoffs was more memorable than the Nuggets championship. The same Nuggets team that took a flyswatter to them in the first round this postseason.

“I just played them in the playoffs bro, they was telling us our plays… But they also what? What’s one of the things that like you see, it was more special what we did in Minnesota because we had, we had like what, like a month? Then we had training camp and it was like you better figure it all out right now, and we really figured it out quick. Think about it, they had what, Jokic been in the league… if you think about it four years, we got it done in four months.”

It should be noted here that the only thing Minnesota accomplished of relevance this season was mortgage their entire future into one of the league’s most polarizing centers and finish two games over .500 before succumbing to a gentleman’s sweep in the opening round. The painful irony is that Jokic has the standing in NBA circles that Towns was supposed to inherit after he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2015.

The Minnesota Timberwolves forward should have been in Nikola Jokic’s shoes by now. The T-Wolves new President of Basketball Ops Tim Connelly was previously known for being the visionary exec who drafted the most recent Finals MVP with the 41st pick in 2014, then selected Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., before bouncing to the Twin Cities before the 2022-23 season began.

Towns’ coach was one of the offensive masterminds who helped unlock Jokic during his early years in Denver. Unfortunately, Towns ain’t it. He hasn’t fulfilled the promise he flashed as a freshman for Kentucky, but he also hasn’t been disappointing enough to be cast off as a bust. He lives in that tricky limbo between those two points. He’s essentially been a pre-ruptured Achilles DeMarcus Cousins analog. A negative force defensively whose diverse scoring repertoire affords him a spot atop a bad organization’s hierarchy. But if his shot stops falling, Towns is virtually a non-factor.

Towns had to be triggered throughout the Finals watching Jokic and Jimmy Butler battling for supremacy. Once upon a time, Jimmy Butler was barking in his face, taunting Towns while overpowering him on both ends of the T-Wolves practice courts and making the young center look like a chump. He still hasn’t recovered from that epic piece of NBA lore. And that’s when they were teammates. Towns may have been triggered by the sight of Jokic humbling Butler in ways he was never capable of because dropping the Nuggets comp was an unforced error.

Jokic and Towns shouldn’t be that far apart. After all, Towns is arguably the better shooter and as a former No. 1 pick, had a headstart on Jokic. However, Towns’ all-world defense never made the trip from Kentucky and his post-play has never come close to matching his perimeter-scoring prowess. Towns is already the NBA’s career leader in 3-point field goals made by a center, but that’s most of Towns’ diet against tough competition.

KAT has been eclipsed by Jokic and others as a low post force

Meanwhile, Towns has been eclipsed by Jokic, and a few other peers as a low post force. Jokic is the NBA’s most efficient offensive generator from the post. Even when comparing Towns’ best season in 2021-22 to Jokic in 2023 when he stepped back as a scorer and focused more heavily on playmaking, Towns was less efficient on post-ups (0.92 points per possession to Jokic’s 1.22 PPP), scored half as many points per game from post-ups as Jokic and logged an efficiency field goal percentage of 48 percent to Jokic’s 65.5 percent on such plays.

Minnesota’s collection of overinflated egos will be their downfall. Towns isn’t alone. It’s safe to say that even though he and Beverley are no longer teammates, they are still living in a silo separated from reality. At one point in the pod, Beverley also gassed up Towns as the most gifted offensive player in the NBA.

“When it comes to like offensively gifted players… it’s KAT and it’s James Harden and I think I got KAT one… I’ve been around this motherfucker,” Beverley said in praise of Towns. It’s too bad we don’t disseminate podcast licenses because Beverley would have his revoked for these takes.

The Timberwolves were immortalized in Aloe Blacc memes and became a laughingstock of the league following their overindulgent celebration of a play-in victory last April. Their lack of self-awareness is still startling.

Their perspective is reminiscent of Murray’s retelling of how Gobert confidently waved off a Jokic double team after the Nuggets center caught the ball on the low block during a contest against the Jazz in 2022. Jokic, who scored a career-high 47 that night, advised him, “Brother I have 47.”

The Timberwolves are gluttons for punishment and as long as their top players don’t get real about their shortcomings, the Timberwolves will always be paper tigers in the league.


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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.