Karl-Anthony Towns is on the path to greatness, but his sophomore season could foreshadow more.
If Towns continues at his current pace of 24.9 points and 12.1 rebounds a game, he’ll become the 12th player in league history to put up those numbers in their second season. The other 11 are Hall of Famers:
(Shoutout to the Big O for being the only guard on this list. Now that’s a feat!)
Because the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t lived up to the somewhat over the top preseason expectations, Towns’ season has gotten swept under the rug, and the rise of other bigs who came out of nowhere gave us reasons to look elsewhere. Sure, most people have kept an eye on KAT throughout the year, but he hasn’t had as many huge outbursts as some would think and the Timberwolves have lost some of their watch-ability since the playoff races have started to heat up.
We know that Towns is going to be the league’s best center in a couple of years, and games against the Houston Rockets (37 points, 22 boards; 41 points, 16 rebounds) and New York Knicks (47 points, 18 rebounds) drive that point home.
However, those explosive, eyeball-drawing performances have been few and far between, but Towns has quietly and consistently maintained the same level of play throughout the year, and he’s done so with an inconspicuous playstyle. The 11 others on the list above were dominant in every sense of the word and Towns joins them without earning that label.
Or, has he?
His numbers are innocuous when paired against the likes of Shaq, McAdoo and Wilt, and that stems from sharing shots with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, two budding stars who are capable 20-point scorers. Unfortunately, LaVine hasn’t played since early February, so Towns and Wiggins are left to bear most of Minnesota’s offense.
In the 29 games post-LaVine’s ACL tear, Towns has clearly separated himself from his teammates and his peers. He’s averaging 28.1 points a night while shooting 58.5 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from three. Not only does he lead the team in scoring, but he’s also fourth in the league behind Anthony Davis, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and the development of his perimeter game is scary.
On the block, Towns isn’t a bully like Wilt or Shaq; he doesn’t have a killer go-to move like Kareem nor does he have the athleticism of Baylor. What he does have, though, is a bit of everything above and his patience is something that normal 21-year-olds don’t possess. He’s bigger than most of his peers, but Towns perfectly executes a move going toward the basket before being cut off, countering without tripping over his large feet and going up-and-under for the score.
It’s art. And even the ugliest painting is beautiful to someone.
Adding to his lethality is his newly-dialed-in jump shot, and none of the guys on the list could bang home triples like Towns. Nine of the guys played without a three-point line, but I can assure you they wouldn’t have lit it up anyway. As far as O’Neal and Robinson, they combined to shoot 1-of-9 from three during their sophomore years. And then we have Towns who’s good for at least one trey a night.
To go out on a limb and already anoint Towns a Hall of Famer is irrational and creating an expectation that would be incredibly hard to live up to. Conversely, acknowledging the path that he’s on shows us that he’s closer to greatness than we think and he’s rapidly approaching superstardom.
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