Karl-Anthony Towns

30 teams in 30 days: New faces have T-Wolves poised to end playoff drought

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30 teams in 30 days: New faces have T-Wolves poised to end playoff drought

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Minnesota Timberwolves. 
 

The days of being young, on-the-rise Timberpups seem to be giving way to a more experienced, battle-tested group that should be good enough to get the Minnesota Timberwolves in the playoffs this season after more than a decade.
 
“We knew going into the offseason we had a lot of holes to fill,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau, told CSNNE.com. “We were pleased with our young players have developed. We wanted to surround them with the right kind of players.”

Thibodeau, who doubles as the team’s president of basketball operations, made one of the biggest offseason splashes in trading for one of his former players in Chicago, Jimmy Butler.
 
Not only did Minnesota add one of the best two-way players in the NBA, but a bona fide leader for a team that’s long on talent but painfully shallow when it comes to experience in this league.
 
“He’s just entering his prime,” Thibodeau said of Butler. “He’s a complete player, plays both sides of the ball. And his veteran leadership … he’s already gone through a lot of the things Karl [Anthony-Towns] and Andrew [Wiggins] are just starting to go through. That’ll be very beneficial to those two guys.”
 
Indeed, Towns and Wiggins showed great promise last season.
 
But the lack of experience Thibodeau spoke of really stood out at the absolute worst time – the fourth quarter - in a lot of games.

Of those 14 teams that didn't make the NBA playoffs last season, only Charlotte (14) and Philadelphia (14) blew more leads going into the fourth quarter of games, than Minnesota (12).
 
“We definitely have to do a better job of finishing games, for sure,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant coach. “I think having more guys who have been in those situations, found success in those situations, is really going to help us, hopefully, get over the hump this season.”
 
In addition to Butler, the Timberwolves added point guard Jeff Teague and one of the game’s all-time great sixth men in Jamal Crawford.
  
It all adds up to a Timberwolves team that’s growing up before our eyes, a team that’s poised to end a 13-year playoff drought.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Jimmy Butler (Chicago); Jeff Teague (Indiana); Jamal Crawford (Atlanta); Taj Gibson (Oklahoma City).
 
Key losses: Ricky Rubio (Utah); Zach LaVine (Chicago); Kris Dunn (Chicago).
 
Rookies of note: Justin Patton.
 
Expectations:
50-32 (2nd in the Northwest Division, fifth in the West).
 

Blakely: A very early look at potential Western Conference All-Stars

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Blakely: A very early look at potential Western Conference All-Stars

Free agency has altered the balance of power in each conference in the NBA. Would that mean for an already stacked Western Conference All-Star team?

Click here to view the gallery

Towns has benefited from relationship with Celtics' Horford

Towns has benefited from relationship with Celtics' Horford

Karl-Anthony Towns has established himself as one of the best young big men in the NBA, and Boston’s Al Horford has had a hand in the 20-year-old’s success. 

“Our moms are tremendously close,” Towns told reporters on Monday. “Our families are tremendously close. So it's always gonna be fun when we get to play.”

Horford was born in the Dominican Republic while Towns grew up in New Jersey but his mother is from the Dominican Republic. 

They played together on the Dominican National team under Kentucky head coach John Calipari who coached Towns during his lone season at Kentucky. 

There’s a decade of time between the two, but that hasn’t kept them from keeping in touch. 

And while Towns counts ex-Celtic Kevin Garnett has one of his biggest influences, Horford’s experience and wisdom has also benefited him. 

“You know, I think Al's really the first person to get me to understand how important the mid-range shot was,” Towns said. “And I think that's treated me tremendously well. Especially my first two years in the league. Last year, especially. That was a big thanks to Al for really raising my eyes to how special and unique it is to have that shot.”

This season he’s averaging 21.8 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

Towns is one of just three players (Boston’s Avery Bradley and Golden State’s Kevin Durant are the others) in the NBA averaging at least 17 points and eight rebounds while shooting 40 percent or better from 3-point range. 

While the numbers are impressive, they haven’t translated into the kind of team-wide success Towns is looking for, the kind of success that Horford has had throughout his NBA career. 

“It's a process. You know, we're young,” Towns said. “That's one thing that I can actually say, ‘we're young. We're not used to doing this every single night with the same intensity.’ You know, we have to have the discipline and have the mentality that every single night we're playing a team like the Boston Celtics, or the Warriors, or the Spurs. We have to give everything we have. We've gotta go out there and we've gotta compete at the highest level every single night. We're getting there. Getting better and better... We've just gotta put one and one together and see if we can make two.”