Bucks at Wolves
7:00 pm CST
At the dawn of a new year, we reflect on the past and ponder the future. As 2016-2017 season began, no teams future looked brighter than the Timberwolves’. And it still looks bright, mind you - three 21-year-old players averaging over 20 points per game is something special.
But, are the Wolves presently the NBA’s most promising prodigies? The Bucks would beg to differ, and due to the emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, they have a strong claim to the Team-of-the-Future title.
As last season ended, no player in the league boasted more trade value than Karl-Anthony Towns. His rookie PER (22.5) was the highest since Shaq’s in ‘93 (22.9). Towns exhibited a dazzling low-post game, toughness as a rebounder, intimidating help defense, and three-point range, as well as the impressive ball-handling and passing skills that helped him win the NBA Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend.
This season, however, no player has more momentum toward megastardom than The Greek Freak. His PER has increased by almost 10 points as he leads the Bucks in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Let’s compare their statistics Bill Simmons-style:
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 23.4, 9 and 5.9, 52–28–79, 28 PER, 1.8 BPG, 2.0 SPG, 7.7 FTA, 34.9 MPG
Karl-Anthony Towns: 22.0, 11.3 and 2.8, 48–34–80, 22.7 PER, 1.4 BPG, 0.6 SPG, 4.8 FTA, 35.8 MPG
Statistically, you are taking Giannis all day long. And as far as the eye-test goes:
It seems fitting Giannis grew up in Greece, because he looks like he descended from Olympus. His pose here reminds one of another deity. His height (6-11) and wingspan (7-3) are virtually the same as Karl’s, but he moves with the grace of a point god. He can also rebound, post up, and has the instincts and ability to be a monster on and off ball defender. His gather plus two steps can take him from past the three-point-line all the way to the basket.
His ceiling is unimaginable, and he seems on a rocket-like trajectory to reach it. Could he be a 7-foot Magic Johnson with superior athletic ability?
Meanwhile, KAT’s momentum seems to have stagnated. His numbers are still good, and he is the superior shooter, maintaining a respectable 34% from three while more than tripling his attempts (3.8). But is his increase in 3-point attempts really such a good thing?
Five trips to the line per game seems meager for the low-post force we’ve witnessed from Towns. Having witnessed the course of Kevin Love’s career, Wolves fans have to be wary of a big man falling in love with the long bomb. It’s a great facet to add to one’s game, but hopefully it doesn’t become the focus.
So, what is Town’s ceiling? Unfortunately, that kinesiologist’s prediction that Towns will grow to 7-3 seems more and more unlikely, so stronger, more-durable Ralph Sampson isn’t walking through the doors of the Timberwolves’ locker room anytime soon.
In his recent Ringer column about the greatness of Giannis and other NBA “unicorns,” Bill Simmons likened Karl to an evolutionary Rasheed Wallace. That’s not a bad player, but it isn’t what many of us envisioned for Karl. I think it’s still realistic to hope that he’ll become the evolutionary Tim Duncan, but I’m less certain of his future than I was last season, when I envisioned him as a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer.
Well, what do you think, fellow Canis Hoopers? We’ve joked around in the past about actually being a Bucks blog, but would you swap stars if you could? Would you swap entire rosters? After all, Jabari Parker (20.1 PER) is having a statistically superior season to Andrew Wiggins (15.6 PER), and his game seems to compliment Giannis’ well.
The argument in favor of the Wolves’ future would point out that we have another potential superstar. Zach LaVine is a joy to watch. His jumpshot is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Of any player 21 or younger that has taken 7 threes per game . . . wait, Zach is the only player 21 or under that has ever taken 7 threes per game, and that’s a cool fact! Anyhow, of all 21 or younger players that have taken over 5 threes per game, Zach still leads all eligible players with a robust 40.8% made.
We’ve got a ways to go, but hopefully we have plenty of time to get there. Thibs seems to be in it for the long-haul, and our tantalizing trio has been durable.
Perhaps the Bucks and Wolves will face each other in the NBA Finals enough times to forge an interconference rivalry akin to the Lakers and Celtics. Perhaps the NBA will hastily reconfigure its collective bargaining agreement shortly thereafter. Perhaps it’s time for me to shut up and show you guys what we’re up against tonight.
Here are Giannis and Jabari taking over their most recent game (against the Pistons on Wednesday):
And, in case you forgot, here is Giannis’ coast-to-coast jam against the Cavs from their November game:
Let’s hope we get a well-played, high energy game tonight. Karl, ‘Drew, Zach – everyone is watching to see how you stack up. It’s time for a showdown!