Thursday morning, NBA 2K24 released its fifth player ratings update of the season.
We are just over the halfway point of the 2023-24 campaign. The Minnesota Timberwolves have already played 45 games, leaving me wondering where the time has gone. Minnesota owns a 32-13 record through those games, slotting them back at first place in the Western Conference, an honor they held for a franchise-best 65 straight days before that streak was snapped on January 23rd. However, the team has been playing relatively sup-par basketball over the last week and a half and is now in a neck-and-neck battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder for top rights in the Wild West.
Mid-season struggles are expected in a long and grueling 82-game regular season. Truth be told, the Wolves haven’t been playing jaw-dropping basketball, collectively speaking, so far this year. The Wolves’ 19th-ranked offense has never reached its full potential, while their top-ranked defense has been keeping them atop the standings.
Despite the season-long issues and a recent lull on both sides of the ball, three members of the team saw upgrades to their ratings in NBA 2K24’s recent update.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker: 75 OVR (+2 from last rating)
Where would the Timberwolves be without Nickeil Alexander-Walker?
That is a question I have asked myself numerous times this season, which is crazy because he was labeled as a “throw-in” to the D’Angelo Russell-Mike Conley trade.
In the eight games since the last ratings update on January 11th, Alexander-Walker is averaging 6.9 points and 2.9 assists on 50% from the floor and 40.7% from downtown in 22.9 minutes per game. Those numbers are up from his season averages (6.6/2.5/43%/36.9%). However, that likely isn’t why his rating is at a season-high. Instead, all signs point to the work he has put in with the starting five recently.
Conley missed two straight games this week — one because of rest and the other because of an illness — which is the first time that has happened in his Timberwolves career. In the only other game the 36-year-old guard has missed this season, Head Coach Chris Finch elected to roll with Troy Brown Jr., who has been a viable plug-and-play guy all season. However, this time, Finch and his staff decided to roll with NAW in place of Conley.
“We love that about him, he’s just such a solid player & just continues to make timely big plays offensively or defensively.”— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) January 25, 2024
-Chris Finch on Nickeil filling a variety of roles this season.
With NAW filling in for Conley last 2 games, starters are +27 in 30min together. pic.twitter.com/h5m4SUZ9et
Minnesota split both games without Minnesota Mike in the fold. For the sake of my and your mental health, I won’t rehash that horrible loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Instead, I will throw up a positive from that game: NAW registered 18 points on 6-of-9 from the floor and 4-of-6 from deep. He provided a blown-up view of what the 6-foot-5 combo guard has been doing all season: creating a textbook example of a 3-and-D player.
When Conley is out of the mix, the Wolves become a much worse team; I don’t think anyone will argue about that. However, you can’t blame Alexander-Walker for any of that. He isn’t a prototypical floor general, and when running with the starters, the team’s ball movement as a whole needs to be better, with NAW often spaced off the ball in the corners.
Regardless, Alexander-Walker’s rating update was well-deserved and overdue.
Karl-Anthony Towns: 87 OVR (+1 from last rating)
Karl-Anthony Towns’ 2K rating has steadily increased over the last couple of months. Since the previous ratings update, he has been the Wolves’ best player — averaging a team-high 27 points and 7.8 rebounds on 57.9% from the floor and 55.1% from deep.
However, KAT’s improved rating has to be because of his career and franchise-best 62-point performance against the Hornets last week.
The first half of that game was mind-numbingly fun, as Towns had a franchise-record 44 points in the first 24 minutes. The second half was mind-numbingly painful, specifically the fourth quarter, where he went 2-of-10 from the floor, had 4 points, and was a -16. As much of a rollercoaster that game was, and even though we saw a historic outburst from the greatest 3-point shooting big man of all time, what KAT has done after that game has impressed me way more.
Most recently, the Kentucky Wildcat put up 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting against the Brooklyn Nets Thursday night. He imposed his will inside from the jump, took smart shots despite six turnovers, and, most importantly, took over when his team needed him the most.
Karl-Anthony Towns was responsible for 12 of the Wolves 15 4Q pts as the scorer & facilitator.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) January 26, 2024
He was 5/6 FG in the frame with 10 pts.
B2B really impressive games for KAT. Not only was he aggressive, but he was smart — taking was the defense gave him.
Towns’ maturity, attention to detail, and winning mentality have been a breath of fresh air this season. He has completely changed his game from a face-up five into a do-it-all four who ties everything together on offense. Karl has been instrumental to his team’s success and is in the conversation to be named to his fourth All-Star appearance, so seeing his rating jump up makes total sense, but not because of his historic night.
Naz Reid: 80 OVR (+1 from last rating)
Over Minnesota’s last three games, Naz Reid is averaging five points on 28.6% from the floor and 30% from beyond the arc. He hasn’t been producing his regular plug-and-play skills off the bench recently, so I am shocked that the folks at 2K decided to up his rating. However, he did have back-to-back stellar performances against the Memphis Grizzlies and Thunder last week, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-13 from the floor against Memphis and 18 points on 7-of-13 from the floor against Oklahoma City.
Who knows, maybe the developers at 2K saw this clip and reacted the same way Alex Rodriguez did, thinking to themselves with their jaws on the floor, “Man, this dude is 6-foot-9 and doing that? We have to get him back into the 80 overall club.”
Anthony Edwards: 89 OVR (-1 from last rating)
Unlike Reid, Anthony Edwards’ rating alteration makes sense.
Because Edwards is one of the most charismatic and lovable players in the league, who is almost a lock to be selected as a reserve for the 2024 NBA All-Star game, his play is pretty much under a microscope 24/7 — leading to less room for poor performances.
Following the last rating update, Ant is averaging 23.4 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.5 rebounds on 45% from the floor and 30.4% from beyond the arc. All of those numbers are down from his season average. He has also sprinkled in some underwhelming individual games, like his 9-point, 11-assist showing against Charlotte or even his 24-point, 8-of-23 shooting performance game against Brooklyn.
89 overall feels like the right place for Edwards right now. Although, when he is on his game, especially in the late stages, he plays like Rudy Gay did in NBA 2K11 (IYKYK) — unstoppable. However, we just haven’t seen that level from him in a little while.