Oh boy, I was just so utterly wrong about Karl-Anthony Towns.
I spent the months leading up to the 2015 NBA Entry Draft asserting that taking Towns first overall would be a big mistake. I repeatedly stated that I hadn’t seen anything particularly special out of him, and that he didn’t seem like the right fit athletically or mentally to become a great, or maybe even decent, NBA player. One year and one unanimous Rookie of the Year award later, my prediction isn’t looking so good.
Now that Towns has had a full season to hone his already impressive tools, he is practically a lock to make the all-star team this year, and for many years to come.
The Timberwolves improved by 13 wins in 2015-16, with the 19-year old Towns being their most significant addition. Towns led the team in win share by a pretty significant margin, and he averaged 18.3 points per game (the 2nd most on the team behind Wiggins–though Towns usage rate is lower than Wiggins) and a team-high 10.5 rebounds per game. For reference, the TWolves gained 2 wins (from 22 to 24) the season that Kevin Love joined the team, and then regressed by 9 wins the following season.
Town’s rookie numbers are downright Tim Duncan-like. In Duncan’s rookie year, he averaged 21.1 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game. One major difference? Duncan played seven more minutes per game than Towns in his rookie year. Per 36 minutes, Towns actually had a slight edge over Duncan in his rookie year.
KAT also brought unique skills that other all-star front court players, such as Tim Duncan, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kevin Love, did not develop until later in their careers (if at all). Most notable of these is Town’s shooting stroke. He ended the season shooting a respectable 34% from deep, and he also had the highest rookie effective field goal percentage of the players mentioned above. It’s pretty clear that we are all in for something really special when it comes to Towns.
Aside from Town’s godlike numbers and his proven ability to lead a team, what is the argument that he can make the all-star team as soon as next year? The most probable path for Towns to make the all-star team is for him to replace LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge and Towns numbers per 36 minutes are extremely close, but it’s likely that Aldridge regresses just a little bit as he is now over 30 years old.
Towns is also arguably the best rebounder of this group, as he grabs the greatest percentage of the available rebounds when he is on the floor. Additionally, Towns has the lowest usage rating of the group–which means that a little drop off in production or workload for Cousins or Davis, and a little increase in either for Towns, could find him swiping a spot in the all-star game.
The NBA also likes to have players from winning teams making up the all-star teams. This way, they get to promote the teams that put out the best product when they play. This won’t hurt Town’s chances for two reasons:
1.) The Timberwolves SHOULD be in the mix next season for a mid-to-low playoff seed in the Western Conference. They have enough young talent, and made enough offseason adjustments, that they should be able to trend towards being closer to a 40-win team than a 30-win team.
2.) When a player is as plainly and simply dominant at their position is Towns is, the wins and losses don’t really matter. Cousins and Davis are fine examples of this.
The reality is, Town’s doesn’t really need to improve to become an all-star as soon as next year. If he can continue the way he played throughout last season, he should make the team this year. He doesn’t need to make any huge leaps or strides to be an all-star caliber player.
Last year, he was in the top 10 in offensive and defensive rebounds, field goal percentage, and blocks, top 15 for player efficiency rating, and top 20 in points. By nearly all accounts, Town’s was among the best 20 players in the league. If he remains consistent–and maybe gets his team closer to a .500 record–he should be cemented as one of the leagues
next great superstars.