The recent trend in the NBA has been all about star players dictating where they want to play, regardless of their contract situation, with Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers) and Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers) being the two biggest recent examples. Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the best young big men in the game, has no plans to join that crowd.
In a recent interview, Towns spoke about his situation with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The first few years of his career have been hectic, to say the least, but he says he's "happy" with the direction in which the franchise is moving, and says he's "planning to be in Minnesota for a long time." Via The Athletic:
"The biggest thing when you have that conversation is you say, 'Is he happy here?'" Towns said. "I'm tremendously happy. I love my front office. I love my coaching staff. I think we've made great moves and great changes. I love the culture we have here. If you want to leave, you have to be miserable somewhere. I am not there. I'm planning to be in Minnesota for a long time."
Ahead of last season, Towns signed a monster five-year, $190 million extension with the Wolves which runs through 2024, so in some ways he doesn't have much of a choice.
The main reason most teams oblige trade requests is because they often come towards the end of a player's contract, and the looming threat of losing a star player for nothing gives the team an incentive to get a deal done. Towns is locked up until the middle of next century, so even if he wanted out, he wouldn't have that sort of leverage.
Tangent aside, it seems reasonable to take Towns at his word here. He spends time in Minnesota during the offseason, where he holds youth basketball camps, and he's not even a year removed from signing his extension. The Wolves just hired a brilliant new president of basketball operations in Gersson Rosas, hired a young, well-liked head coach in Ryan Saunders and have a number of talented young players.
Whether they can put it all together and jump into the playoff mix in a loaded Western Conference remains to be seen, but after a few years of high-intensity drama (Jimmy Butler trade-demand fiasco included), it makes sense that Towns would be excited about the team's new direction.
Perhaps more interesting than his comment about staying in Minnesota, is that he also said he believes he's only reached "60 percent" of his potential due to "situational things."
"I think I've been held back to 40 percent of my talent," Towns said. "It's going to be fun to be able to tap into a little more with Ryan Saunders at the helm. I'm going to have a lot of fun being able to play more freely and be able to do things I've been doing my whole life that I've been held back from doing in the NBA so far."
Towns is a double-double machine, and one of the most offensively talented big men in the league. He's crafty on the post, shot 40 percent from 3 last season and can put the ball on the deck. At times, however, there were criticisms of how previous head coach Tom Thibodeau used him. Towns, for example, often got fewer touches than lesser players, which could account for some of the "situational things" he was talking about.
It's scary to imagine a guy who put up 24.4 points on 51.8/40.0/83.6 shooting splits becoming even better on the offensive end. In truth, where he needs to improve for both he and the Wolves to take the next step is on the defensive end, where he looks lost at times. If most of the 40 percent of the talent he's still yet to unlock is on that end of the floor, that may be even more terrifying for opposing teams.