Did Karl-Anthony Towns Just Have the Best Rookie Campaign Since Tim Duncan's?
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves has had a big week and an even bigger season.
On Monday of this week, Towns became only the fifth unanimous winner of the NBA Rookie of the Year Award since 1984, joining the likes of Damian Lillard (2013), Blake Griffin (2011), David Robinson (1990), and Ralph Sampson (1984). Then, on Thursday, he and Kristaps Porzingis became the only two unanimous selections on the NBA All-Rookie First Team for 2015-16.
Towns' rookie campaign was excellent, even by an NBA veteran's standards. In his first year, Towns averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He ranked first among all rookies in scoring and rebounding, while coming in second to Porzingis in blocks.
Across the NBA as a whole, his rebounding average ranked 8th and his blocks per game ranked 10th. He was also third in the Association in double-doubles (51) behind only Andre Drummond (66) and Russell Westbrook (54), and his 54.2% field goal percentage ranked him eighth in the league. He was even one of only six players in the NBA to play and start in all 82 games this season (James Harden, Al Horford, Mason Plumlee, Robin Lopez, and Al-Farouq Aminu being the others).
There have only been seven rookies who have averaged at least 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, while shooting over 50% from the field since blocks officially became a statistic in 1973-74. Towns essentially joined a murderers' row of NBA legends by accomplishing the feat this year:
The combination of sleek raw averages, shooting efficiency, and defensive prowess have made Towns an advanced stat darling. He led all rookies this season in Player Efficiency Rating (PER, 22.5), Win Shares (8.3), and True Shooting Percentage (59.0%).
In fact, those numbers place him on some rookie leaderboards historically as well.
Since Michael Jordan's rookie season in 1984-85, here are the leaders in PER for first-year players who hit at least 2,000 minutes:
In rookie Win Shares:
|Player||Rookie Season||Win Shares|
In rookie True Shooting Percentage:
|Player||Rookie Season||True Shooting%|
KAT's inclusion on these lists might suggest that he's not only the best rookie of this particular year but perhaps the best since Tim Duncan's rookie campaign in 1997-98.
Since that time, Towns is the only player to make an appearance in the top-20 of all three of these lists other than the Big Fundamental. Blake Griffin (21.9 PER, 9.8 Win Shares, 54.9% True Shooting Percentage) and Anthony Davis (21.7, 6.1, 55.9%) came close, but Towns bested each of them in all three categories (with the exception of Griffin's Win Share total).
In other words, Towns might be the best rookie of the last 18 years, at least as far as the combination of PER, Win Shares, and True Shooting Percentage are concerned. At the very least, the numbers suggest that he's in the conversation.
The future might look very bright for Rookie of the Year, Karl-Anthony Towns, and his Minnesota Timberwolves, but this year he proved that his present has plenty of shine as well.