By: Drew Mahowald
When the late Flip Saunders drafted Karl-Anthony Towns with the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, he was expected to make a solid impact right away for a team that was arguably the NBA's worst last season.
Instead of just making a solid impact, Towns has emerged as a once-in-a-generation player. He has already exceeded all expectations that were set for him before the season.
He's not a normal 20 year-old. He's probably not even a human being, to be frank. As a rookie, he's already put himself in the same company as all-time greats like Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan. He has future Hall of Famer written all over him. He's that freaking good.
Towns is more than just a rookie sensation. Rookies just don't do what he's doing this season. No, Towns has surpassed the notion of "rookie sensation" -- he's a superstar.
Disclaimer: This is the only time I will even mention the NBA Rookie of the Year race. There's no discussion -- Towns will win it, and it will be a complete abomination and an embarrassment to the human race if he doesn't win. It's not a knock on Kristaps Porzingis -- that guy is a stud -- it's more about the greatness of "KAT".
Even without looking at the numbers, it's clear Towns is one of the best -- if not the best -- player on the floor and that's rare for a big man. Defensively, he's already making a huge impact for the Wolves by acting as a stingy rim protector in the paint, averaging 1.8 blocks per game. Additionally, his positioning and help rotation recognition are light years ahead of the usual rookie curve.
On the offensive end, Towns literally does everything -- He probably has the ability to play all five positions on the floor. Besides his ability to score efficiently down low, which is also far ahead of the pace of most rookies, Towns has also proven more than capable of stepping out to the perimeter and knocking down a jump shot. Add in his unusual passing skills, and what you have is a Hall of Famer in the making.
Diving into the numbers gives a better look at just how phenomenal Towns' rookie season has been through 54 games. His per game averages include 17.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.8 blocks in 30.1 minutes. Additionally, Towns is shooting an incredibly efficient 54.4 percent from the floor, including 38 percent from beyond the three-point line and 85 percent from the free throw line. The fact that a Towns could realistically reach the 50-40-90 shooting plateau this season is just absurd.
A deeper look into the numbers is even more astonishing. According to basketball-reference.com, Towns is the ONLY NBA rookie EVER to register per game averages of 17 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 54 percent and notching a PER (player efficiency rating) of at least 23.
Shaq didn't do it. Duncan didn't do it. Davis didn't do it. Robinson? Nope. Olajuwon? No sir. Towns is the only player.
Does this mean Towns is the best rookie big man ever? Not necessarily. Does it mean he's in the conversation? Absolutely.
Even disregarding the rebounds category, only four players besides Towns have recorded 17 points per game and shot 54 percent from the field as a rookie -- Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Bill Cartwright and Chris Webber.
Not bad of company, I guess.
When looking at single-game performances, Towns still stacks up with some of the greatest players ever. For instance, his phenomenal performance against Toronto on Wednesday included 35 points (on 12-for-19 shooting), 11 rebounds and three blocks. At an age of 20 years and 87 days, Towns is the third-youngest player in NBA history to record a 35-10-3 game. The two youngest? Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
I've got to throw in more stat because it puts Towns in the same company as Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time. Towns' PER rating of 23.2 is not only 12th in the entire NBA this season, but it's also the third best ever for a rookie. Just above Towns in second is Jordan at 25.8, while David Robinson occupies the top spot at 26.3. Trailing Towns at fourth is O'Neal (22.9) and at fifth is Duncan (22.6).
Those four players joining Towns in the top five aren't just Hall of Famers, but they all rank almost unanimously among the top twenty players to ever put on basketball shoes. And Towns is right there in the middle of them.
At the end of the day, I could sit here and rattle off countless statistics that put Towns among the best rookies of all-time. But the point here is that Towns has already solidified himself as one of the best rookies in the history of the NBA, and he's putting himself on the same path as guys like O'Neal, Duncan, Robinson and Olajuwon.
Am I getting caught up in the hype? Absolutely I am. But the numbers don't lie.
Karl-Anthony Towns is not just a rookie sensation -- he's already more than that. He's a superstar, and he'll be a Hall of Famer unless something bizarre happens. And, by looking at some of the players that his career path is following, it won't be surprising if Towns claims multiple NBA titles in his career.
Get excited, Wolves fans.