Karl-Anthony Towns will make his long-awaited return from injury on Friday as the Minnesota Timberwolves host the Atlanta Hawks. Ahead of his first game since suffering a meniscus injury on March 4th, the Timberwolves star hyped up his  late-season comeback by posting a highlight reel of his recent workouts and practice participation on Twitter.

The one-word caption accompanying Towns' video? “Back.”

Towns' return for the Wolves' matchup with Atlanta was originally reported on Thursday. Shortly thereafter, the team upgraded his status on the injury report to “questionable” due to a left mensicus tear. Towns' official status has gone unchanged since then, but every indication is that he'll be taking the floor against the Hawks at Target Center.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, the same can't be said for Anthony Edwards. The 22-year-old superstar was a surprise addition to the injury report on Friday while dealing with an illness. Edwards is currently listed as questionable to play versus Trae Young, Dejounte Murray and company.

How Karl-Anthony Towns raises Timberwolves' playoff ceiling

Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) walk off the court during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There was an assumption upon Towns' injury that Chris Finch's team would tumble down the Western Conference standings as a result of his prolonged absence, but that didn't prove the case. The Wolves went 12-6 without him in the lineup, getting wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets during that timeframe while sporting a +6.7 net rating, the sixth-best mark in basketball.

Edwards' meteoric ascent toward the game's elite accelerated while Towns recovered, and Naz Reid staked his claim as not just a frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year, but a worthy frontcourt partner for Rudy Gobert in the starting lineup. Minnesota, it seems clear by now, didn't need Towns to be a surefire playoff team this season in a loaded Western Conference—a dynamic that could loom extremely large this summer as the team faces a fiscal cliff next season made only more fraught by its ongoing ownership battle.

Now is not the time for the Timberwolves to mull their long-term future, though. The present is all that matters in Minneapolis as the postseason dawns, and there's no denying that Towns' health substantially raises his team's ceiling against elite competition.

As much as Edwards has improved as an all-around shot-creator and versatile as Reid's game is offensively, Minnesota needs the imminent threat Towns provides as a deep-range floor-spacer and multi-level scorer to reach its peak on that side of the ball under the playoff microscope.

Defenses will be more hesitant to load toward Edwards in primary actions with Towns looming on the weak side, and it's wildly naive to think the Wolves' 123.2 offensive rating with Edwards off the floor amid Towns' injury will hold up in the postseason. Relying on a non-shooting big like Gobert to sustain its league-best defense, as well as streaky-to-poor three-point shooters like Jaden McDaniels and Kyle Anderson, makes the presence of an offensive force like Towns absolutely critical for Minnesota.

Towns is probably still a below-average defender in a vacuum, but his sheer size and length up front is important for the Timberwolves to maintain their dominant defense, too. With Towns, Gobert and Reid all available, Finch will have the option to exclusively roll out lineups that feature a pair of traditional bigs up front—especially key in a prospective playoff battle with the defending-champion Denver Nuggets.

Make no mistake: Minnesota is no favorite to advance to the NBA Finals with Towns back in the lineup. The Nuggets stand alone atop that Western Conference pecking order, and there's an argument to be made the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers are more likely to win the conference than the Wolves, too.

Minnesota at least belongs in that second tier of title contenders now that Towns is healthy, though, and matches up better with Denver than any team in basketball save the borderline-juggernaut Boston Celtics. This really could be the Timberwolves' year. We'll find out soon how far Edwards and Towns can take them.