Karl Anthony-Towns to the Lakers is the move not enough people are talking about

Built up frustration in Minnesota could force out their most talented player, and Los Angeles could be an ideal landing spot.

Reports about Karl-Anthony Towns being unhappy with the Minnesota Timberwolves came and went last spring just before the playoffs took over NBA news.

Teams are going to try to keep up with the likes of the Warriors and Rockets in 2018 and will need star-caliber players like Towns to do it.

Now that free agency is pretty much finished, the league’s attention will shift towards exploring trades for big stars in unfavorable situations.

Frustration in Minnesota

ESPN’s Zach Lowe said in March that Towns and Minnesota were “not in a good place.” The NBA rumor mill is not always a trustworthy place, but Zach Lowe is not one to throw around unfounded ideas.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has yet to center the offense around Towns, arguably the team’s best offensive threat. Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins were the primary options throughout the season, taking the bulk of the workload in both the regular and post-seasons.

Towns finished behind Butler and Wiggins in total field goal attempts per game despite shooting 10 percent better from the floor and from 3-point territory.

Butler is an All-Star, but Towns is young and possesses some of the highest upside in the league. There is no reason any team – Minnesota or otherwise – should value Butler more than Towns.

Wiggins, whom the Wolves signed to a 5-year, $145.6 million contract last fall, is a very talented player, but does not shoot the ball well enough to get the number of touches he does compared to Towns. 

The Wolves snuck into the playoffs after beating out the Nuggets in a close race for the 8th seed -- the team’s first playoff berth since Kevin Garnett’s 2003-04 squad.

However, despite winning a game against the Western Conference Finals-bound Rockets, the Wolves, as a team, struggled. Towns averaged only 15 points and 13 rebounds and shot just 27 percent from three after averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds and shooting 42 percent from three during the regular season.

So far this offseason, the Wolves have kept Derrick Rose, lost Nemanja Bjelica and have gotten shot down by Butler after they offered him an extension. There is no sign Jamal Crawford will be back.

Who can be moved?

If Towns is unhappy and the Wolves are not committed to using him more, then it would not be out of the question to suggest they trade him.

Butler’s name has come up recently in trade talks to Boston, but the Celtics declined to aggressively pursue him before he ended up on the Wolves. After rumors of his personality clashing with others in the locker room, Butler’s stock has not necessarily risen since then.

Further complicating things for the Wolves, Butler just turned down their 4-year, $110 million contract extension offer and will wait to enter free agency in 2019.

Wiggins is signed to a deal most teams would not touch. So Towns is the only valuable trade piece the Wolves have to offer if they are looking to change course.

Without any hope of winning going forward, Towns may not want to commit long term.  If the Wolves assume he is not interested in staying when his contract expires, it would not be a bad idea to trade him and start over.

Finding a trade partner

The Celtics and the Lakers could offer the most compelling packages of young talents in exchange for Towns.

After LeBron James left Cleveland for the Lakers, the Eastern Conference is wide open.

Most teams at the top of the East like Toronto, Milwaukee and Philadelphia have their rosters filled out or do not have trade assets to match up with what the market value of Towns should be.

The Celtics have the likes of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier, all of whom are coming off a very good Eastern Conference Finals run on an injury-plagued team.

Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are in the mix as trade pieces too. Nearly everyone on the Celtics has been rumored to be up for grabs for Butler or Kawhi Leonard – before he landed in Toronto. 

If the Celtics think Towns is as good, if not better than Butler, there is no reason to think Towns would not demand a similar trade offer.

However, Celtics GM Danny Ainge has a very good young core already. Adding Towns by trading anyone from that group might be counterproductive.

The Lakers’ trade assets may not be as attractive as those on the Celtics, but they are much easier to move.

Any trade from the Lakers for Towns would have to include some combination of players such as Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart.

With the arrival of LeBron James in LA, the Lakers are going to want to take advantage of the end of his prime by stocking up on talent. They are going to need a lineup that features more than Lonzo Ball and Lance Stephenson over the next few seasons.

The Lakers struck out on signing Paul George and could not put together a package they were willing to part with to trade for Kawhi Leonard. That leaves the door open for Towns, who would be a great fit in a LeBron James offense.

His skill and shooting would be better than that of any big man James has had in his career, and the Lakers are desperate to be great again.

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