Jim Souhan
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They were supposed to be the Timberwolves' superheroes. Karl-Anthony Towns would be Batman. Andrew Wiggins would become his Robin.

Nearing the end of their fourth season together, they have separated like wheat and chaff, oil and water, Hall & Oates.

Towns has become Batman. Wiggins is merely robbin'.

The Wolves invested maximum contracts in their two most prodigious young talents. One has adopted the value arc of Google, the other of MySpace.

The two No. 1 overall picks arrived in Minnesota as supposed saviors. When a trade for Wiggins was followed by the Wolves winning the draft lottery in 2015, Flip Saunders cried while standing next to the Target Center floor, feeling the franchise's luck had boomeranged.

He was half right.

Towns and Wiggins, KAT and Wigs, A1 and A2 have removed any reason to ever again include them in the same sentence.

The Wolves traded for Jimmy Butler to lead and inspire their young players. Not only did that backfire in terms of personnel and assets, it proved unnecessary.

Towns didn't need to be led. He's playing the best basketball of his life since Butler departed.

Wiggins can't be led. Instead of taking advantage of Butler's absence — either by becoming more productive or proving Butler's insults wrong — Wiggins has lapsed into his usual catatonic state.

On Thursday night, in a damaging loss at Indiana, Wiggins made four of 14 shots from the field and scored 11 points with one assist in 37 minutes. He continued to make defensive mistakes and display poor court awareness.

He is one of the most prolific young scorers in NBA history, but his points come at a steep price — halting the offense so he can take low-percentage two-point shots, and losing touch with the player he is guarding.

Wiggins' raw numbers aren't terrible, but if you watch the games you don't need statistical analysis to see what he lacks.

You only need to listen to him.

Earlier this season he insulted Wolves fans who have criticized him, after he perpetuated his penchant for missing key free throws. Thursday night, Wiggins told the Star Tribune's Chris Hine, regarding his struggles: "I don't let it bother me. I think next game I can make it better. I don't worry about it.''

This is another area where Towns has trumped Wiggins. Towns plays with energy, has charisma to burn and possesses the good sense to at least talk a good game when asked a tough question.

Perhaps the worst thing I've heard said in private of Towns is that he can be too polished, too smooth. When you're a star, that's not exactly an insult.

So what are the Wolves to do?

It's simple.

They need to keep Towns at all costs, which means keeping him happy at all costs.

They need to bench Wiggins soon and trade him this summer.

Robert Covington has become the Wolves' second-best and second most important player. That's a compliment to him and an insult to Wiggins. When Covington returns, Wolves interim coach Ryan Saunders needs to bring Wiggins off the bench.

If that sounds drastic, consider these points:

• The Wolves have nothing to lose. If Wiggins is motivated by the benching, the Wolves may be able to salvage him as a player, and possibly salvage this season. If he's not, they will have done all of the due diligence required before trading him.

• Saunders might not feel he has the authority to bench a maximum-salary player, but he'd be better off taking that risk than letting Wiggins destroy the season. Saunders looks like a much better coach when Wiggins is not on the court. Saunders needs to recognize that.

• Saunders has been deferential to Wiggins. The first lesson he should learn as a prospective NBA coach is that managing the wrong player in the wrong way will get you fired.

Look at Butler, and his good friend Tom Thibodeau.

Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com