The Minnesota Timberwolves currently have a bottom five defense in the NBA. Karl-Anthony Towns has been one of the biggest problems.
Even though he is a generational talent on offense, the same cannot be said on the other side of the ball. According to NBA Math’s Total Points Added, Towns has -8.27 points saved on defense through five games. The only big men in the NBA with worse ratings so far are Kristaps Porzingis and Paul Millsap.
Opponents have scored 119.5 points per 100 possessions while Towns is on the floor. Among all starting centers in the league, the only player with a worse defensive rating is Kelly Olynyk.
“The Timberwolves struggled defensively with Towns on the court, posting a 110.8 defensive rating. That would’ve been good for last in the league if applied throughout the whole year. When he was sitting on the bench, however, their rating improved exponentially to 103.6 which would’ve been fifth-best in the NBA.”
This season, he has allowed 44.0 points per game in the paint, the second-highest among all starting centers. The 13.8 points per game he has allowed via fastbreak is also the second-most from any starting center.
The third-year center has already had legitimately embarrassing moments on the defensive end of the court, like when Utah’s Rodney Hood dribbled a ball through his legs.
Towns blocked 4.3 percent of two-point field goals attempted by his opponents when he was a rookie. Now in his third season, this rate has dropped to 3.2 percent. Watch him fail to even attempt a block above, keeping his hands down and lacking basic basketball fundamentals.
Cleaning The Glass notes that Towns is committing fouls more often this season than 90 percent of big men. This means that when he is trying to defend, he is making mistakes and allowing the opposition to the free throw line.
The slow start to the season is a multidimensional issue for Minnesota. But until Towns is able to improve his instincts and effort, it’ll be hard for them to take the jump to a next-tier team in the NBA.