Karl-Anthony Towns: Rookie of the Year, 2017 All-Star

Karl-Anthony Towns’ explosion into the NBA has been quick. He already is one of the league’s most productive centers. He has not produced like this since he was towering over his peers at St. Joseph High School.

At Kentucky, Towns averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds per game. At the 2015 NBA Summer League, he averaged 13 and 7 on 39.6% shooting.

Throughout Towns’ rookie year, his production has been anything but restrained. On the offensive end, he is averaging 17.7 points. He crashes the glass with authority (10.3 rebounds per game), and protects the rim with energy (1.8 blocks per game). In February, he was Rookie of the Month for the Western Conference.

This makes the Timberwolves seven-footer one of two centers in the NBA to average over 17.5 points and 10 rebounds. The other is Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins who will likely be an All-NBA First-Team selection. Towns is also among the elite when it comes to shooting efficiency.

Towns is successful on 54.5% of his attempts, which beats Cousins by nearly 10%. No other big man averaging over 15 points has a higher shooting percentage, showing that Towns has an effective mixture of usage and efficiency.

2015-16 Points FG% Contested Shots % Rebounds PER
DeMarcus Cousins 27.4 44.9% 48.7% 11.5 23.5
Karl-Anthony Towns 17.7 54.5% 55.0% 10.3 22.9

Towns is shooting 66% when he is within five feet of the basket, which is expected from a seven-footer with post skills. What is more notable, however, is when Towns steps away from the basket. Between 20 and 24 feet, Towns is shooting 45.3%. This is better than the overall shooting percentages of Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

“He is my best shooter [on] the whole team!” (Sam Mitchell to Britt Robson, MinnPost).

Towns has a versatile skill set, and no clear weaknesses that are easily exploitable.

SB Nation’s Jesus Gomez described how Towns possesses all traits that make a rookie special: Jahlil Okafor’s post scoring, Kristaps Porzingis’ rim protection and outside shooting, Willie Cauley-Stein’s defensive versatility, and Frank Kaminsky’s maturity.

Considering Towns’ age, his level of maturity is rare. He was a member of the Dominican Republic National Team at 16, which accelerated the growth of his on-court maturity. He was brought onto the squad because his mother is Dominican and he displayed enough skills as a sophomore in high school to earn a spot.

“Before this experience, I was more of a player on the wing who could shoot the 3, but this experience took me to a different level where I want to post up and overpower people,” Towns said. “I’ll still shoot the 3 if I have it, but I want to play inside more and be an inside-outside threat now that I’ve added skills to my repertoire” (Brandon Parker, ESPN.com).

Towns had to have maturity at 19 when he was barely averaging 20 minutes per game at Kentucky, despite being one of the most heralded athletes in the NCAA. Rather than pout about John Calipari’s platoon system, Towns embraced the opportunity to play and develop with one of the nation’s top basketball programs.

Kevin Garnett has been a mentor to Towns this season, helping the rookie develop his mental mindset and approach to the game.

“[Towns] is very smart. He has a high IQ. He understands basketball,” said Garnett (Kent Youngblood, StarTribune).

Throughout his rookie season, Towns has taken leaps. Over the past 30 days, he is averaging 22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.5 blocks on 56.2% shooting. Just months into his NBA career, Towns has become the clear face of the Timberwolves.

The Wolves are sitting at 20-45, the fifth-worst record in the NBA. So if his team is that bad, how much of a difference could Towns possibly be making?

Minnesota’s big man is leading all centers in estimated wins added at 12.6. If Towns was not in Minnesota, the Wolves would be competing with the 76ers for the worst record in the league.

Towns is also 15th in the league in PER. He has accomplished this through a complete skill set that allows him to take advantage of whatever the defense gives him.

“Towns might be the best rookie since Tim Duncan, with an unbelievable combination of size, athleticism, touch and intelligence” (Michael Pina, Fox Sports).

Not Quite Duncan Minutes Points FG% Rebounds
Tim Duncan, 1997-98 39.1 21.1 66.2% 11.9
Karl-Anthony Towns, 2015-16 31.1 17.7 54.5% 10.3

Towns may not be able to legally drink yet, but he is already one of the league’s premier big men. At just 20 years old, he has plenty of time before he reaches his prime and is able to become one of the league’s superstars. He has all the tools and time to ascend to All-NBA status, and to eventually lead Minnesota to several playoff pushes.


photo via llananba