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Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns makes All-NBA third team

Opens door to massive contract extension

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) battle for the ball on April 26 during the second half of game five of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at FedExForum in Memphis.
Christine Tannous / USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns knows all that comes with winning. Disrespect, underestimation, it all dissipates in the wake of victories.

“Just gotta win,” he has said countless times in the past.

How true that has proven for the Timberwolves’ center.

Twice in his career, Towns has made the playoffs. In both seasons, Towns has made an All-NBA team.

His second such honor was announced Tuesday, when Towns was revealed as a member of the 2021-22 third-team, All-NBA. He finished as the third-team center, with two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic being first team, and Joel Embiid second.

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Towns finished with 38 second-team votes and 60 third-team votes, placing him far, far ahead of fellow centers Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Miami’s Bam Adebayo for the third-team spot.

And with this latest honor comes a massive expected payday. Towns is now eligible to ink a supermax, four-year extension worth $210.9 million this summer, which will build upon the two years remaining on his current deal.

While new president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, named to the position Monday, has yet to make public comments since taking over the team’s basketball decision making, it’s a near lock the Timberwolves will indeed put the offer in front of Towns, and he’s expected to sign it. Towns was asked about the expected extension immediately after Minnesota lost to Memphis in Game 6 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

“I love this city. So obviously things will happen this summer, when they happen they happen. l’ve been here so long I don’t like making prophecies,” Towns said. “I’ll let it come if it comes. And if it comes, it comes, then we’ll deal with it when it comes. Just take every day, l’ve been here long enough to know that every day things can change, so just be happy with where everything is at right now.”

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And he certainly is happy with Minnesota and the franchise’s current state. After years of losing, the Timberwolves seem to be in a stable place, built to experience consistent success on the strength of Towns, Anthony Edwards and head coach Chris Finch.

“Future is bright and the team and everyone is very excited about what next year could hold for us,” Towns said after the season ended. “I’m already in the mindset of, ‘I got to start getting ready for next year,’ because this ain’t the long offseason we’ve usually had. We got to get right.”

Towns had a big 2021-22 campaign off which to build. After a couple of seasons were somewhat derailed by injuries, illnesses and family tragedy, this season Towns looked like the center he was always on track to become.

He averaged 24.6 points — highlighted by a 60-point performance in San Antonio — and 9.8 rebounds this season, shooting 41 percent from 3-point range while serving as an important cog in Minnesota’s revamped, improved defense. The big man was asked to use his agility to play pick-and-roll defense out on the perimeter, a role in which he often excelled.

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Much was placed on Towns’ plate every single night. And more often than not, he delivered.

Towns was 10th in player efficiency rating among NBA players this season and value over replacement players, fourth in win shares and 14th in box plus-minus. Minnesota outscored its opponents by 5.3 points per 100 possessions when Towns was on the floor — the best mark on the team.

Patrick Beverley marveled at Towns’ professional approach and availability to play every day. That’s always been Towns’ calling card. He shows up and gives you his best. And, this season, his best was really, really good.

“What comes to mind is just his high-level consistency, you know and his efficiency. He was extremely efficient,” Finch said. “I thought his defense was excellent, as well, and I liked his leadership. We asked him to come into this season with (the thought) that the best way he can lead our team is with the best version of himself, which gives us a great chance to win every night, and something that people want to follow – some people want to follow. He made it all about winning this year, and he’s made it all about winning since I’ve been here, so he’s at that point where he’s still heading into his prime.”

Given that he just completed his seventh NBA season, it’s easy to forget Towns is just 26 years old. The best is yet to come — likely in the next four to five seasons to come. Those seasons will be spent in Minnesota, and Towns will be well compensated for his efforts in them. He deserves as much for helping put the Timberwolves back on the NBA map.

“I think that this is the beginning of something special,” Towns said. “I feel like for one of the first times in this franchise where a lot of pieces are falling into place. It doesn’t feel so scrambled. It doesn’t feel so random. But we’ll see.”

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