The NBA trade rumor mill is blazing since the news broke of Karl-Anthony Towns’ relationship problems with the Minnesota Timberwolves organization. So naturally, speculation will grow on possible trades. Whether the T-Wolves will actually engage in negotiations or have legitimate strains on the relationship is yet to be confirmed. But it is not impossible to envision them doing so if the relationship is as bad as reported. And this type of news may have come at a great time for the Los Angeles Lakers.
They are in the hunt for an elite talent, and with Towns possibly on the market in the near future, he would be someone the Lakers should look into acquiring if they are indeed willing to move assets. Recent reports say that the Laker front office does not view anyone on the team as ‘untouchable.’
So, if the price is right, maybe the Lakers should look into acquiring Karl-Anthony Towns if they think they have the assets to pull off a deal. But this is only if they are looking to do something. And they should prioritize KAT over the other reported ‘disgruntled’ star they have been heavily linked with: Kawhi Leonard.
The first reason is the team-control aspect. Both players are under contract through 2019, but in KAT’s case, you have the option of extending a qualifying offer for the 2019-2020 season. If you do not or he rejects it, he will only become a restricted free agent, meaning you can match any offer for him and retain him if he were to come to a contractual agreement with any other team. So you would virtually have him for five-to-six years more years.
Whereas in Kawhi Leonard’s case, you would be giving a ‘grand-slam offer’ for a one-year rental with no guarantee that he will stay beyond 2019. And if you believe the speculation around the league that he is looking to leave San Antonio, with Los Angeles rumored to be his top destination choice, and use that to argue why he will not walk, why not wait until next summer and retain your assets? Plus, the franchise is confident that they can land him.
Not to mention, KAT is four-and-a-half years younger and will be much cheaper financially, so giving up part of your young core makes sense since you will have him long-term. He is a 22-year-old that just played a whole 82 games and averaged 21.2 points and 12.3 rebounds on 54.5% from the field and an outstanding 42.1% from three.
This is not to say that KAT is better than Kawhi Leonard. He is not. But he is a modern-day big of the unicorn species that would be a better immediate fit with Lakers because of the team’s hole at the center position. And there is no doubt he needs to become better on defense. But he has the tools to be a good defender. Luke Walton turned Julius Randle into a very good defender this past year, so there is no reason to doubt that he can do the same with Towns.
Nor is this to say that the Lakers should look to make a move. They need to stay patient, keep the core intact, trust in the process, and continue to grow their team organically while adding free agents. It is what you call a proper rebuild. It is extremely difficult to streamline one.
But if they had to choose to move the farm for one of these guys, the long-term security and youthfulness they would get with KAT make more sense. And as mentioned before, executives around the league believe Kawhi Leonard wants to come to the Lakers. So all they have to do is be patient.
Having Karl-Anthony Towns will make the roster more attractive for a Paul George. And if he comes, and the Lakers can mess around with their cap situation, maybe they can grab Kawhi next summer.
But it is all speculation, especially a Lakers team with all three of KAT, Leonard, and George. And there is no indication that the Wolves are looking to move the former number one overall pick, nor they should not be. When you have a player of Towns’ caliber at his price tag and age, you do what you can to hold onto him unless you get an absolute king’s ransom.
Nor is there any indication that Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson would want KAT if he were to become available. But the Laker front office is in the business of star-hunting, so it is fair to assume they would be. They are no doubt looking around the league for superstar-caliber players. And if the price is deemed worthy and all things equal, a move for Karl-Anthony Towns should be prioritized over Kawhi Leonard.