As the Timberwolves have made their way to the top of the Western Conference standings, they have dodged significant injuries to their top players.

That changed Thursday, when the team announced All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns will have surgery early next week to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Towns had an MRI taken Wednesday and will be re-evaluated in four weeks, the team stated in a release. How that recovery goes will help determine whether Towns can be available to play again by the start of the playoffs, which are set to begin April 20. The final day of the regular season is April 14.

The Wolves initially only announced that Towns was out for Thursday's game because of left knee soreness, but sources said Towns and the team were waiting for further evaluation throughout the day on his knee and sifting through the best options for rehabilitation, which could have included rest.

Despite the surgery, there still is a chance Towns plays in the postseason. This isn't the first time in recent Wolves history that a meniscus injury affected the teams' late-season playoff push. In 2018, Jimmy Butler had surgery to repair a torn meniscus with 19 games left in the season. He was able to return for the final three. But while he was out of the lineup, the Wolves fell from the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference to the No. 8 seed by the start of the playoffs.

The Wolves began this stretch of time without Towns on a different note with a 113-111 victory at Indiana. Anthony Edwards scored 44 points and had a game-clinching block of Pacers guard Aaron Nesmith as the Wolves search for ways to compensate for Towns' efficient offense.

Towns earned his fourth All-Star appearance this season thanks in part to his offensive efficiency. He is averaging 22.1 points per game while shooting 51% from the field, 42% from three-point range and 87% from the free-throw line. He has helped prop up an offense that has struggled to find a consistent rhythm throughout the season and ranks 18th in efficiency. The Wolves average 116.5 points per 100 possessions when Towns is on the floor, and 106.1 when he is off the floor. Towns has also been an integral part of the Wolves' No. 1 defense, in terms of efficiency. His ability to guard a variety of players at the four, or power forward, position has enabled the Wolves to be a defensively versatile team. Coach Chris Finch has frequently cited Towns' willingness to guard smaller, quick players as a key reason the Wolves are able to play defense at the best rate in the league.

Sign up for our Timberwolves Update newsletter

Injuries have piled up for Towns over the course of his career. In his first three seasons, Towns played in all 82 games, but he has missed time over the last six seasons for various injuries and illnesses, including multiple wrist injuries, a calf injury and now potentially significant time because of this current knee injury.

The Wolves went 26-26 in the 52 games Towns missed last season because of the calf injury. In those missed games, the Wolves had the 20th most efficient offense and 12th-best defense. Towns has missed two previous games this season, and in each game, forward Kyle Anderson started in his place. Anderson also started last season when Towns was out. Anderson was one of the players who helped the Wolves survive that .500-record stretch without Towns, thanks to his playmaking ability at the four spot. Anderson has had a more inconsistent season, given more minutes played at the three spot, though he has improved since the trade deadline.

The Wolves will need more than just Anderson to compensate for Towns' absence, especially on the offensive end. Center Naz Reid can attempt to replicate what the Wolves will be missing in terms of size and offensive production. The 6-foot-9 Reid is averaging 12.3 points per game in 23 minutes off the bench and is shooting a career-best 41% from three-point range. His numbers when playing alongside Rudy Gobert are solid, with the two having a net rating of 14 when they've shared the floor across 640 minutes, one of the best numbers on the team.

Towns' injury may also result in more offensive opportunities for Jaden McDaniels, the Wolves' best perimeter defender who has been inconsistent offensively. McDaniels is averaging 10.5 points per game compared to 12.1 points per game a season ago, and his three-point shooting has fallen from 40% to 36%.

Towns last played Monday against Portland, where he finished with 14 points in 21 minutes on the court. The Wolves began a six-game road trip Thursday in Indiana before going to Cleveland on Friday, then Los Angeles for games against the Lakers and Clippers, and then two games in Utah.