SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – With Jimmy Butler gone, the Timberwolves offense now runs through Karl-Anthony Towns, and because of that, he is facing a regular helping of double-teams when he catches the ball in the paint or just outside of it.
The Wolves’ offensive success hinges on Towns’ ability to manage these double-teams, something coach Tom Thibodeau said “is a work in progress” for Towns, but he has liked what he has seen of late.
“He’s making a lot of good plays,” Thibodeau said. “It’s something we have to continue to work on, but he’s in a great rhythm right now offensively. So when a second defender comes, just don’t fight it, make the right play. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot.”
Towns, who had four assists Wednesday night, said when he faces a double-team, he trusts his teammates are going to be in position to make a play.
“I’ve been dealing with double-teams and triple-teams my whole life. It’s not like something that’s tragically different,” Towns said. “It’s more of an understanding. You look at the Spurs: Tim Duncan was getting double-teamed and triple-teamed. He understood where everyone was going to be, he could trust that everyone would be there.”
According to tracking data from NBA.com, Towns gets a touch on a post-up 11.3 times per game, the second-highest amount in the league behind the Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge. He scores 6.7 points per game on post-ups, the most in the NBA. Thibodeau said a key to Towns’ efficiency is getting him as close to the basket as possible before he touches the ball and the double-team comes. Towns only wants to make the right play out of the double-teams, whatever it might be.
“I’m not too worried about points and all that stuff,” Towns said. “It’s just about making the right play, putting ourselves in the right position and like you said, there’s always a counter to everyone’s defensive plans. We just have to continue to expose that.”
Former Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica had an eventful offseason, as he backed out of a potential deal with the 76ers to head back to play in Europe. But the Kings and General Manager Vlade Divac, a fellow native of Serbia, swooped in and signed Bjelica to a three-year, $20 million deal.
“I feel more confidence,” Bjelica said. “The coach trusts me, and we have a great group of guys. Everything is about opportunity. You need to be patient and strong mentally and push every day.”
Bjelica has started all 26 games for the Kings and his minutes have increased to 24.2 per game. He’s averaging a career-high 10.6 points per game, but also said he has fond memories of Minnesota.
“I had a great time,” Bjelica said. “I miss my teammates because I spent three years with them. I like Minneapolis as a city, especially.”
Bjelica scored 25 points Wednesday night.
Pretty in pink
The Wolves unveiled their new “Earned Edition” jerseys Wednesday and the uniforms are in the same vein as the Prince-themed purple and pink jerseys the Wolves wore Nov. 16. The jerseys are white with pink lettering. The Wolvers are slated to wear them Dec. 26 in Chicago and at home Dec. 28 against the Hawks. The uniforms are a part of Nike’s “Earned Edition” series which grants an extra uniform to teams who made the playoffs.