It was only a matter of time before Karl-Anthony Towns was going to be named rookie of the year after his stunning first NBA season.
The dominant, tantalizing rookie center from Kentucky's powerhouse program — drafted number one overall last summer after blowing away the Wolves' brass during his pre-draft workout — was sensational from the start.
Towns received all 130 first place votes from the media, a year after his teammate Andrew Wiggins won the award for the first time in franchise history. In the process, the Wolves became the first team with back-to-back winners since the Buffalo Braves in 1972-73 (Bob McAdoo) and 1973-74 (Ernie DiGregorio).
Stephen Curry became the NBA's first unanimous Most Valuable Player last Tuesday, winning the award for a second straight season. On Monday at Target Center, it was Towns who took his turn on the clean sweep as the league's most potent first year player. The rare rookie who immediately took the league by storm accepted his award with the same poise and professionalism demonstrated since he first stepped foot in Minneapolis.
Towns joined Shaq and Duncan as the only players with 18+ points per game, 10+ rebounds, and 54+ field goal percentage during their rookie campaign. When talking about statistical outliers, he certainly fits the bill (especially when compared to fellow Wolves' rookies). It's not surprising to see him unanimously win rookie of the year after an unbelievable start to his career. How could any reasonable viewer not vote for him?
Towns hoisted all six rookie of the month awards in the Western Conference while quickly becoming the best player on the Wolves and the true anchor in the franchise's pursuit of becoming a perennial contender, rather than a habitual cellar dweller obsessed with the unpredictable fortune of ping pong balls at the league's annual draft lottery.
Towns Was a Game-Changer
There was no proverbial rookie wall for Towns. It simply never arrived. He punched his way right through any normal rookie barriers like a real prizefighter, only getting stronger as the season moved forward. He was an absolute game-changer for this franchise.
Look no further than his game-winning shot with 1.8 seconds to play on April 9 in Portland, or his incredible defense against Curry on an island at Oracle in a game the Wolves won in overtime against one of the best team's in league history (who only lost two games at home on their way to the best regular season record of all time).
Towns posted season highs in rebounds (21) and assists (nine) on April 3 vs. Dallas, becoming the NBA's first rookie to collect at least 21 rebounds and nine assists in the same game since Elgin Baylor (Feb. 9, 1959 vs. New York). There were countless moments where he left viewers with their jaws dropped, hanging effortlessly in disbelief over the pure talent exhibited by the 20-year-old superstar.
Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns goes from No. 1 overall pick to unanimous NBA Rookie of the Year!https://t.co/PJuylM0TPt— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 16, 2016
This day was eventually going to come for Towns. That became rather obvious after three months of out of the box greatness. By the All-Star break, it had almost become a foregone conclusion even with talented competition in a loaded rookie class.
The time finally came to watch him accept the award he worked diligently towards over the course of his youth. It was a sweet feeling watching him on that stage speaking with such poise and maturity. Towns thanked his teammates down the line. "Lord KG, we all know him," he joked when arriving at his mentors name on the long list of people he thanked at his packed press conference at Target Center.
"He embodies all the characteristics that you look for in a winning player," new President of Basketball Operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Very talented, smart, driven, and mentally tough. Along with that, he's very unselfish. When you study his career, you see he's won big at every level."
"Last year Andrew [Wiggins] became the first in our franchise history to win rookie of the year," Thibodeau continued. "It's the first time in over 40 years that its been done back to back, and I think together — Karl along with Andrew — it gives a great core to build around. We think it's the best young core in the league, and we're looking forward to the challenges ahead."
A Dream Come True
Over the course of the season, we got to know an endearing young rookie named Karl-Anthony Towns. He was a dream come true for any lifelong Wolves fan stuck in a yearly cycle of disappointment, as I’ve previously written.
In KAT, hope is not some unrealistic light shining ever so brightly at the end of a long tunnel. The future is no longer frozen in time like the days of Ricky Rubio aging like fine wine overseas with DKV Joventut, and eventually FC Barcelona. We say hello to the league’s newest superstar and can’t miss cornerstone just as we say goodbye to one of the most dominant rookie seasons in NBA history.
I was too young — three years old to be exact — to understand Shaq’s dominance in 1992, and the same goes for Duncan in 1997.
In 2016, after 15 years of NBA obsession, grasping the greatness witnessed in Towns is fairly effortless. I lived through every moment, breathed each possession, actively consumed the quotes he offered, always hungry for more out of the best rookie to grace Minneapolis since Kevin Garnett. In franchise history, only Towns’ most prized mentor is truly comparable. KG carried an entire city on his back for the better part of a decade and now his student is tasked with the same mission.
We say goodbye to Towns’ legendary first season with all eyes on the rise under Thibodeau's leadership.
Towns joins Damian Lillard, Blake Griffin, David Robinson, and Ralph Sampson as the only unanimous NBA Rookies of the Year in the past 32 years. In Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves have two dollar assets, as Bill Simmons would say. The toughest part of the NBA is finding those dollar pieces and keeping them around long enough to win multiple championships.
Anybody that doesn't feel the tide changing in Minneapolis is only lying to themselves out of fear from being let down. 12 years without going to the playoffs in a league that sends almost half the organizations to the postseason will do that to a fan, but the hard times this franchise has experienced seem to be in the rear view mirror for now. Towns and Wiggins represent two true pillars for lasting success.
Now the real fun begins.