Karl-Anthony Towns’ Time in Minnesota Appears to be Expiring

Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn - USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves extended pending unrestricted free agent, Naz Reid, over the weekend. It was a somewhat surprising move, given how much future cash the team already has committed to big man teammates, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert beginning in the 2024-25 season.

Towns will make $52.4 million [in 2024-25] and Gobert $43.8 million. Add in Reid’s $14.0 million and the Timberwolves have $110 million — nearly three-quarters of the salary cap — committed to centers alone.

Kevin Pelton – ESPN
Timberwolves’ roster situation is financially unsustainable.

Three-quarters of the salary cap committed to three big men? Why would Tim Connelly & Wolves ownership invest that much money into their front court knowing they still have to pay Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels + build a playoff roster around them?

The answer: They probably won’t.

Most NBA insiders agree, the Naz Reid extension confirms the Wolves’ clear intentions to trade away one of their three big men, sometime before the start of the 2024-25 season. Their future financial situation is, per ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, “unsustainable”. And, barring a big drop-off in play from Naz this year (’23-’24), it’ll be KAT or Gobert who are eventually moved in order to make it sustainable again

With¬†Anthony Edwards¬†ticketed for a max rookie extension starting in 2024-25, that situation is unsustainable. The odds of Minnesota trading one of its three centers over the next 13 months are high. Assuming Reid stays similarly productive, he should have positive value on this deal. But if that’s the case, it might be one of the Timberwolves’ older and more accomplished centers who proves expendable.

Kevin Pelton – ESPN
Trading Karl-Anthony Towns is obvious choice.

When the Timberwolves are eventually forced to move on from one of their big men, many factors will play into who they jettison. But there’s no doubt which of the three would net them the most in return. It’s Karl-Anthony Towns.

Naz Reid is a really good player but, had he hit the open market on Friday, his agent would have been hard-pressed to find another team willing to offer anything more than the mid-level exception (1YR, ~$12M). The 24-year-old‘s trade value is limited in the same way.

Thanks to a disaster first season in Minnesota, Rudy Gobert’s stock is lower now than anytime prior to 2015. Even if he plays better in 2023-24, he’ll enter next season as a 32-year-old big man whose best attribute is a nearly-expired max contract.

So how much would KAT bring back in trade…?

Trading KAT, on the other hand, would land a massive return haul for the Wolves; one that would look a lot like what they gave up last summer for Gobert. A few 1st round picks + multiple players who would contribute immediately.

Don’t believe me?

In a trade speculation piece posted at ESPN+ on Tuesday, a team of marquee NBA insiders (Bobby Marks, Nick Friedell, Kevin Pelton and Andrew Lopez) floated a hypothetical KAT to Knicks deal that would land the Wolves Julius Randle, Isaiah Roby, Jericho Sims and THREE 1st round picks.

New York Knicks get:

  • Karl-Anthony Towns

Minnesota Timberwolves get:

  • Julius Randle | 28 y/o (25.1 PPG, 10 RPG)
  • Isaiah Roby | 25 y/o (4.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG)
  • Jericho Sims | 24 y/o (3.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG)
  • ’24 1st round pick
  • ’26 1st round pick
  • ’28 1st round pick (top-5 protected)

Sure, the above trade is hypothetical. But when thinking up potential return packages for KAT, few people on the planet are better qualified in determining his market value than the ESPN insiders who created this potential blockbuster. Towns is a great basketball player but he doesn’t have what it takes to help lead the Timberwolves out of their dark past. He’s proven that and seems to know his time in Minnesota could be limited.

When Tim Connelly is eventually forced to hit the reset button, moving on from Karl-Anthony Towns will be the obvious choice. And if the above trade package were on the table in front of me, the reset would start as quickly as I could call the deal into league offices.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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