With the 2019-20 NBA season on the horizon, there’s plenty to be excited about in the NBA world. It’s the time of year when we throw our craziest predictions at the wall and hope that we’re able to look back at later and hope we were well ahead of the rest of the world in our thinking. This is exactly what this is. Leading up until training camp begins next Monday, we at SKOR North will have a number of different bold predictions regarding the Wolves upcoming season.
Karl-Anthony Towns receives the first MVP vote of his career
Towns is poised to make another leap as a player. He’s currently a top-15 player in the NBA, but is the loneliest player of his caliber – everyone that’s in his tier of players, or above, has a capable sidekick.
The best player that Towns plays alongside right now is Robert Covington. And this isn’t a knock on Covington, he’s an elite level role player, but he’s a great ancillary piece, not a guy that’s meant to help shoulder the load of a team with Towns.
With that being the truth and the fact that the Wolves are set to revamp their offense built around Towns, it’s feasible to expect him to have his best year yet as a professional. After posting a usage rate of 22.9% while sharing the court with Jimmy Butler in 2017-18, that jumped up to a career-high 28.9% last year.
Plenty of comparisons are going to be made to the Houston Rockets because of Wolves’ President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas spending much of his career there. We don’t know the style of play the Wolves will exactly use right now, and it certainly won’t mirror what the Rockets do offensively, but both teams had one true star player last season – sorry, Chris Paul.
This isn’t comparing James Harden to Towns. That would be foolish. What this is doing is taking a look at the way the Rockets allowed him to dominate the basketball because he was the best option for them to put points on the board each and every possession. Towns is that in Minnesota, and maybe to an even larger extent. Last season, Harden’s usage rate was a league-leading 40.5%. Towns likely won’t reach a number that high, but could his rate jump to 33%, where Philadelphia center Joel Embiid was last year? Absolutely. Could it get even higher than that? Say, between 35% and 37%? Maybe. But it’s hard to expect Towns to do anything other than set a career-high in that category.
Once there’s a better idea of what the offense for the Wolves looks like, it will be easier to handicap just what Towns’ numbers will look like. But with his game only getting better, it’s easy to see him improving upon last season’s statistics where he averaged 24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. If his usage rate rockets to the area where it could, how many more points per game is Towns generating? There alone he could jump from 24.4 per game to 28 points per game, if not higher. That number is also weighed down a bit by the Jimmy Butler saga. In the first 13 games of the season – when Butler was still on the Wolves’ roster – Towns only averaged 19.9 points per game. In the remaining 64 games that Towns played, he was at 25.3 points per game.
Harden ran away with the scoring title last year, averaging 36.1 points per game. Paul George finished in second place with 28 points per game and Towns was a distant 13th at 24.4. It’s tough to forecast what the leader will look like, but it’s not crazy to think Towns could top George’s mark of last season and finish third in the scoring race.
Another thing that could make this interesting for Towns is the places on floor in which he’s utilized. Both Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders have publicly talked about putting him in different places on the court than just the block. How his abilities, specifically passing, translate to that area could be something that swings this towards him being a type of candidate.
With a higher usage rate, it’s fair to think that Towns will improve both his scoring and his assist numbers. Pair that with averaging 11 or 12 rebounds per game, and suddenly he looks like a fringe MVP candidate.
The Wolves probably won’t be good enough as a team to merit him getting serious consideration for the award, but that doesn’t mean one media member won’t put him on his or her five-player ballot at the end of the season.
Since the MVP voting was restricted to 101 total votes in the 2016-17 season, only LeBron James last season received a single vote for MVP while missing the playoffs. Towns could become the second to do so next year with a breakout season.