That Karl-Anthony Towns. My goodness.
I’m not someone who gets too high or low on summer league performances. The results are whatever. And the production really doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things. You want to see players build confidence, but mostly it’s just interesting to see how players make decisions within the flow of a chaotic basketball environment. Tim Faklis recapped all of the action from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first Las Vegas Summer League game on Friday.
I just wanted to do a quick post with some passing highlights from Towns. And that kid can sling the ball all over the court. In my Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor breakdown post, I made note of his passing. I loved the instincts, but his passes were a little sloppy or offline or sailed on him. But recognizing where the best pass was and when to get it to his teammates at Kentucky was certainly there.
With the Wolves posting him up heavily in the first game against the Lakers’ summer squad and the Lakers very much committed to double-teaming the No. 1 pick, Towns had a chance to show off that passing ability quite a bit. A couple of times, he forced the pass and it didn’t result in a scoring opportunity. However, he did a great job of being patient against the double team and finding the right pass to teammates he’s not all that familiar with just quite yet.
His first assist was a beauty, but it almost was too hot for Lorenzo Brown to handle.
This is a very quick action the Wolves can absolutely replicate with Towns or Kevin Garnett early in sets. With Ricky Rubio bringing the ball up the court, Andrew Wiggins or Kevin Martin or Zach LaVine or Shabazz Muhammad can all be that sudden cut from the wing. And we should feel pretty confident in them being quick enough and talented enough to finish those plays with regularity. When the defense starts preparing for it, it’ll give Towns the room to operate or knock down the midrange jumper if Minnesota is going for those quick attacks.
His second assist came against a double team from the top of the key, which left one wing defender having to keep an eye on two players. Othyus Jeffers cut as soon as the defender started cheating up toward the top to keep an eye on LaVine.
It all seems really simple, but having the recognition to not force a pass through the double team and to hit Jeffers in stride away from the flailing arms of D’Angelo Russell show off the passing instincts. It’s a great cut by Jeffers and it shows comfort within being targeted by the defense.
“I was very ready for the double team when I saw it coming,” Towns said after the game. “Just making sure not only making the right pass out of the double team but making the right that gives us a scoring opportunity.”
And the celebration after Othyus finishes through the contact for the hoop plus the foul is all kinds of enthusiastic fun for us watching.
Towns’ other two assists came when the Wolves finally separated from the Lakers and started putting this game to bed. His third assist of the game happened against another double team in which he almost invited it, kept the ball high, swung it away from attacking limbs, and then patiently found the best passing option with two options available.
Take a look at the freeze frame below of the passing decision he has to make. Maybe this is over-analyzing one play in an exhibition, but I think most players here would just fire the ball to the far corner, probably on a looping pass, and the scoring opportunity would be delayed or even erased by a decision like that. Guys like LeBron James or Chris Paul would fire off an assist opportunity, but it’s normally a slower cross-court pass in this situation.
Instead, he protects the ball, stays patient with the pass, and saw Jeffers cutting across the middle as the two defenders squeezed down on Kyle Barone.
The fourth assist was Towns and Lorenzo taking advantage of an overplay on the post-entry pass by D’Angelo Russell. Once he shifted his body to reach for the pick-off, Brown was cutting toward the hoop and a quick shuffle pass increased the lead to six points.
It’s just four passes in a summer league game, but it’s fun to see the skill set on display. It’ll be interesting to see how he builds on his first game over the next week.