Karl-Anthony Towns has a very bright NBA future, but weaknesses remain
With so much hype around Minnesota Timberwolves center, Karl-Anthony Towns, it seems like he’s superman and can do no wrong. However, like all players he has to have a weakness. What are some of his? See what one fan (Andrew Roy) over at AthletiQA said about him. AthletiQA.com is an intelligent and social sports Q&A website where athletes and experts are directly answering questions for their fans on the most relevant sports topics. Check them out at www.athletiqa.com.
In the offseason, I looked around for some T-Wolves content to get me through. I came upon the video made by DraftExpress about KAT’s weaknesses as a draft prospect. Seeing this, I tried to find out if these weaknesses are still applicable to him, or if not, how he managed to overcome them and the numbers to back it up.
DX has Towns at Top 3 for fouls, saying that he had 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) and fouled out in 6 games. Reading into bballref, KAT actually has 115 fouls in 39 games, which is about 3 fouls per game (in just 21 mins. per game). Also, according to DX he easily bites on pump fakes, resulting in easy shots or more fouls for the opponent.
Now, let’s look at his stats for the 15-16 NBA season. Bballref has KAT at 3 fouls per game, and 3.4 per 36. Looks similar to his college stats, except that this is for 32 mpg for 82 games. KAT only has fouled out once, and had 3-4 fouls for 46 games. It is also worth noting that in the game when he fouled out (against the Clippers), his last 2 fouls came with 4 seconds left in the game. It is still quite a high fouling rate, and if he actually manages to decrease that to 2-2.5, we are looking at potentially more on-court time, more defensive stops, less opp freethrows, and more transition/fastbreak points.
How about actual defensive results? It’s quite hard to get specific defensive stats (e.g. post defense, iso situations, switching, etc.) but looking at the available stats he just has 0.7 steals per game, but also has an impressive 1.7 blocks per game. Looking at bballref’s leaderboards, Towns is 6th in total blocks and 10th in blocks per game. Advanced stats aren’t so kind though, with low to average DBPM (1.2), DWS(2.8) and DRTG(106), except for BLK%, which is 4.3%, good for 12th in the league. Poor standing in advanced stats can also be attributed to the overall team performance of the Wolves, so it is kind of expected that KAT wouldn’t fare so well in that department.
I also found a Dawkins video of KAT’s defensive highlights (mostly/all blocks) and some of the best plays that showcase his defensive discipline are:
- 2:09 – Bites on a RoLo fake, manages to recover and bother the shot
- 2:30 – Great help defense and contest on Avery Bradley, then stays for the block from behind
- 3:03 – Bites on a Leonard fake from 3 but quickly recovers and blocks the shot
- 3:25 – Blocked McDermott from behind, starting chase from top of the key
- 4:34 – Makes a good contest on a Harden drive without fouling
I wouldn’t be able to provide much in this section, but KAT’s explosiveness can be seen with his fast reactions to opposing shots, leading to great blocks as shown in the previous section. However, he can really show his explosiveness on the offensive side and boy can he get UP:
- 2:07 – Putback jam over Lauvergne and Faried
- 3:15 – Offensive board following his own miss against Jeff Withey
- 4:14 – Defensive board followed up by a transition dunk
- 5:06 – Dotted line slam from a Rubio dime
- 6:00 – Another one
- 9:00 – Slaying Mirza
Draft Express also addressed KAT’s consistency issues, where he didn’t always show up despite having some big games throughout the year. They also noted that his rebounding has room to improve and needs more polish for him to be an elite center.
Well, it’s quite obvious that the rebounding is already solved. KAT averaged 10.5 rebounds per game, good for 8th in the league; and it’s not just defensive boards (6th, total), but offensive as well (10th, total). For DRB% and TRB% he is 12th and14th, respectively. Pretty good numbers, especially considering he is just a rookie and is averaging a double-double.
Consistency can also be seen through points splits, FG% and performance in the clutch. He only had 9 games where he didn’t score in double digits and had 53 games with double digit rebounds (and one game with 21). With regards to his shooting, he has a 54.2 FG% (8th), 55.9 2P% (10th), and 34.1 3P% (similar to Horford and Cousins, however with much less attempts, ~1 compared to ~3). He also fares well in EFG%, TS%, and PER with 55.5% (14th), 59.0 (20th), and 22.5 (13th)respectively.
What about the clutch? I used bballref’s event finder to find out KAT’s field goal attempts in the 4th quarter and the game within 5 points. The search yielded a total of 83 FGA with 44 makes, for about 53%. Narrowing the search to < 3 minutes yields 13-of-31 for about 42%. I would say KAT performs fairly well in clutch situations, especially since Smitch’s late game plays aren’t really top tier.
Advanced Post Moves
Finally, DX addresses that KAT doesn’t have much of a post game except for his jump hook, and that he lacks counter moves. This is also the aspect of the game where Okafor edges him out. However, during the course of the season we have seen Towns improve his post game significantly, with an array of moves including up-and-unders, spin moves, and even post fadeaway and turnaround jumpers.
- 0:44 – Turnaround jumper on Noah
- 0:54 – Post, turnaround fadeaway with shot clock winding down
- 1:30 – Fakes out Jason Smith with an up-and-under
- 2:42 – Smooth spin to finish a layup
- 3:58 – Offensive board, posts up AD with a couple of fakes and spins, gets him in the air for the and one
- 6:12 – Spin on Porzingis to a reverse layup finish
- 7:29 – Quick shake to a fadeaway jumper
From the weaknesses that Draft Express have initially presented, it seems that KAT has already begun to improve upon and overcome most of them. His discipline will only improve with Thib’s arrival and KG’s continued tutelage, and he is already an excellent blocker. However, he can still work on reducing his fouls and be able to respond accordingly to fakes (usually his athleticism makes up for recovery when he bites on them). And from what we have seen, explosiveness and consistency are starting to become his strengths, and will continue to do so once he gains more experience on the court (and hopefully the playoffs). He also significantly improved his post game and gradually learning moves and fakes that elite centers regularly use. Overall, I think the “weaknesses” that KAT now has to work on is discipline on opponent fakes, and also gaining some strength to back down the biggest and strongest centers will enable him access to a wider arsenal of weapons in the paint.
Thanks to the AthletiQA team for sharing this exclusive with us. Join this discussion here (http://j.mp/2e8D1nn) and get your other questions answered by athletes and experts at www.athletiqa.com.