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In the Balance: The Future of Karl-Anthony Towns

Rumblings about the superstar’s unhappiness are beginning to bubble to the surface. What’s next?

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

When Steve Berman speculated in the New York Post that the Knicks had their eye on Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, it was easy to laugh off; There was no sourcing, it was clearly just wishful thinking on behalf of Knicks fans.

But now comes this from Ethan Strauss in The Athletic:

The Warriors have been monitoring Karl-Anthony Towns’ situation in Minnesota. He’s under contract until 2023-24 but has less reason than Antetokounmpo to be thrilled with his team’s trajectory. This was a topic among multiple team executives at the recent G League Showcase, with a few relaying word that Towns is unhappy in Minnesota. The Wolves currently sit at 13th in the Western Conference, two spots ahead of the gap-year Warriors, looking at another lost season. While the Wolves might dream of a scenario where Russell teams up with his good friend Towns, the Warriors have a differing vision of how a trade between the two franchises could shake out.

Here we have some meat. Strauss heard from more than one league source that Towns is unhappy in Minnesota. These sources are not identified, and there are no quotes, but I have no doubt that Strauss is accurately relaying what he heard. So this raises questions:

  1. Is Towns actually unhappy? Certainly rival executives have reason to suggest so as they try to position themselves to acquire stars however possible, and trying to speak unrest into existence is not unheard of. That said, and while I have no inside information, I believe it. The team is regressing, he’s looking at another season without playoffs, the new regime failed to improve things during the summer, and he’s playing with a bunch of one year contract guys and youngsters who do not seem to be getting it.

Certainly we can all cite reasons why they are in this position, and excuse Rosas for a first summer that has not apparently yielded much, but that’s generally not how players think. They want to have good teammates and win games. That’s not happening, and hasn’t happened since Towns’ arrival with the exception of the Jimmy Butler season, which was fraught for other reasons. I’m sure he is restless and unhappy.

2. Given his contract, does it really matter? Towns is in the first year of a five year contract, so the Wolves have some control here, but still. Anthony Davis made a ruckus with more than two years left on his deal, and fought his way out of New Orleans. I doubt Towns will put public pressure on the Wolves for a while, he likes to be liked too much, but the summer of 2021 is only 18 months away, and I think at that point the rumblings could get a lot louder.

3. What Should the Wolves Do? It’s a tough league; Nobody gives you anything for free. But the front office and coaching staff have this trade deadline and the summer of 2020 to make real progress. They have to get better. They can’t just wait around and hope Jarrett Culver becomes an above average starter, and hope they hit on a pick this summer. Proactivity with an eye toward making a significant step forward next season is absolutely essential to reinvigorating Towns’ desire to stay in Minnesota.

If they don’t do so, and the end game is Towns’ departure in a trade before his current contract expires, it will be another in a long line of Wolves failures. This franchise is absolutely legendary in its ability to screw things up. They are the best at being the worst. It’s entertaining, but ultimately the reason they are of such little significance both on the local sports scene and in the NBA as a whole. If it happens again with Towns, what will be left?