SLAM Top 50: Karl-Anthony Towns, No. 14

Two seasons into his young career, Karl-Anthony Towns’ progress hasn’t skipped a beat. Nor has he skipped a game. Like, literally. After starting in all 82 games as a rookie, he did so once again last season. And so 164 consecutive starts later, it’s beyond clear that KAT has established himself as one of the most consistent and reliable centers the game. And also one of the best. Period.

Averaging 25.1 points per game last season, which ranked No. 1 among centers and tied Kevin Durant for 12th overall in the League, the Piscataway, NJ, native proved that he was indeed everything he was touted to be when he was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Points aside, he also finished top 10 among centers in rebounds (12.3 per night), assists (2.7 per game), free throws and field goals.

Last season he became the first player in NBA history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 100 three-pointers in a single season while also breaking Kevin Love’s single-season scoring record. He stood behind only Pau and Marc Gasol in three-point shooting percentage among centers.

KAT finished with a double-double in 62 of last season’s 82 games.

Following two years of steady progress and growing into the team’s go-to option, this season will bring KAT into new territory. After being the leader (at age 21) of the youngest team in the NBA last season, some offseason acquisitions by the Timberwolves have suddenly brought in playoffs expectations upon Towns and company. The veteran additions from this summer include all-star Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson.

Despite averaging 25 and 12 for the season, Kat was snubbed from the All-NBA team selections in the spring. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan beat him out by just four points. The seven-footer took to social media in the aftermath to say that “being disrespected is nothing new” to him. And in an interview with Sporting News a month later regarding the snub, he added:

“You know what, it did a little bit, it did a little damage to me. But that’s all right, because it is all about team success. You’ve got to win. You’ve got to win to be respected in this league. You have to do little things, there are things we can do as a team. We have to come back as a stronger team and win in the playoffs, because the playoffs are the most important thing.”

The playoffs are a milestone that Minnesota fans have been looking to claim for over a decade. The franchise hasn’t played in a postseason game since 2004. After only winning 31 games last season, Las Vegas has the Wolves at over/under 48.5 victories this year.

The impact this summer’s additions ultimately have on KAT’s production will be interesting to watch unfold. There are some that fear it might lead to him having fewer touches and shots. Will there be spacing issues that could arise? Is ball sharing a concern?

While those may be some of the trepidations, there are plenty of positives as well on the flipside. The Timberwolves were known for not being all that great on defense last season and having added someone like Butler can certainly help in that department. Also, adding some veterans will certainly help out a young team that in many occasions couldn’t close out games last year. The new pieces will also be taking a load off KAT’s shoulders on both ends of the floor.

In the end, as is the case with just about any of the League’s star players, KAT’s career will be judged on just how much winning he ultimately was able to accumulate. And so while we can debate all day on the impact the additions will have on KAT’s stat lines this coming season, it’s the wins and losses column that may ultimately decide where he really ranks among the League’s best.

Previous Rankings:
2016: No. 20
2015: Not Ranked

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2017-18—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

No. 50 – Dion Waiters
No. 49 – Ben Simmons 
No. 48 – Brook Lopez
No. 47 — Harrison Barnes
No. 46 — Jrue Holiday
No. 45 — Lonzo Ball
No. 44 — Myles Turner
No. 43 — Goran Dragic
No. 42 — Andre Drummond
No. 41 — Al Horford
No. 40 — LaMarcus Aldridge
No. 39 — Kevin Love
No. 38 — Paul Millsap
No. 37 — Hassan Whiteside
No. 36 — Andrew Wiggins
No. 35 — Marc Gasol
No. 34 – DeAndre Jordan
No. 33 — Bradley Beal
No. 32 — Kemba Walker
No. 31 — CJ McCollum
No. 30 — Devin Booker
No. 29 — Nikola Jokic
No. 28 — Joel Embiid
No. 27 — Mike Conley 
No. 26 — Kyle Lowry
No. 25 — Rudy Gobert

No. 24 — Gordon Hayward
No. 23 — Kristaps Porzingis
No. 22 — Carmelo Anthony
No. 21 — DeMar DeRozan
No. 20 — Blake Griffin
No. 19 — Draymond Green
No. 18 — Chris Paul
No. 17 — Klay Thompson
No. 16 — Jimmy Butler
No. 15 — Isaiah Thomas