Even after winning their last two contests, the Timberwolves remain 5.5 games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with just 15 left to play, meaning their hopes of making a postseason push are minuscule. Nonetheless, the club has no plans to shut down its two highest-paid young players, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, both of whom are dealing with injuries.
“We’re a competitive basketball team,” head coach Ryan Saunders said today, reiterating that the Wolves don’t intend to tank down the stretch, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).
Towns, who missed Sunday’s game against the Knicks, is battling right knee inflammation, while Wiggins has been sidelined for Minnesota’s last two games with a left quad contusion. Saunders said today that both players will go through shootaround and warmups before the team determines their availability for Tuesday’s game vs. Denver (Twitter link via Krawczynski).
As we noted on Monday when we discussed Zach LaVine‘s injury, this is typically the time of year when lottery-bound teams take an extra-cautious approach with minor injuries, both to preserve the health of their most valuable players and to potentially improve their draft standing. However, Towns in particular has plenty of incentive to remain in the Wolves’ lineup for the season’s final four weeks.
Towns’ new five-year, maximum-salary extension, which goes into effect for the 2019/20 season, currently projects to be worth about $158MM. However, its projected value would increase to nearly $190MM if KAT earns a spot on an All-NBA team. The big man would have virtually no chance of earning All-NBA honors if he sits out the season’s final month.
We pointed out in February that the Anthony Davis saga in New Orleans could create a clearer path for Towns to snag a spot on an All-NBA team, and his recent numbers suggest he’s motivated to do so — he has posted an impressive 35.1 PPG, 14.1 RPG, and 3.4 APG on .597/.489/.776 shooting in his last seven games (34.1 MPG).