Minnesota Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns took the league by storm last season as he coasted to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award. After watching him average 18.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game before his 21st birthday, it was hard to even imagine what kind of growth would come as he continued to develop in the league. Fast forward through the 62 games of his second campaign and you’ll see his numbers have ballooned to 24 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, while already making 39 more 3-pointers this season than he did in 82 games last season.
Perhaps the most noticeable area of growth has been in his offensive rebounding totals, especially over the last month.
Towns currently sits tied for fourth in the NBA with 3.7 offensive rebounds per game, trailing only Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and Rudy Gobert in that category. More importantly, he has parlayed those offensive rebounds into a league-best 304 second-chance points this season.
The offensive boards per game average is nearly a full rebound higher than the 2.8 he posted as a rookie last season. More impressive is the 4.8 offensive rebounds per game he is averaging since Feb. 1. Over a full season, that would lead the NBA by a half-rebound per game on the offensive glass.
He’s had six games in the last month with at least five offensive rebounds, including back-to-back performances with at least eight offensive boards to end February. He became just the fourth player in the NBA to do that in the last two seasons, joining Gobert, Tyson Chandler and Andre Drummond (he did it three times).
Towns’ uptick in offensive rebounds could not have came at a better time for the Timberwolves, who lost Zach LaVine to a season-ending injury early last month. Aside from picking up even more usage and shot attempts in the set offense, Towns has made a huge impact on the team’s missed shots as he grabbed the offensive rebound on 14.4 percent of his opportunities. In the five games since the All-Star Game — which many believe Towns deserved to play in — that percentage is up at 17.7 percent, well over a full percent higher than Howard’s league-leading 16.1 percent this season.
In the five games since the break, Towns is carrying the team in other areas. He’s averaging 27.4 points and 17.2 rebounds while shooting 63.4 percent from the field and 50 percent behind the 3-point line. If Minnesota was just a couple places higher in the standings and if Russell Westbrook wasn’t closing in on averaging a triple-double, it is entirely possible we would be talking about Towns closing in on a possible MVP award.
While playing in the postseason is certainly looking more and more unlikely — considering the Wolves’ upcoming schedule and that they need to make up 3.5 games while passing four teams in a 20-game span — it is incredibly clear Minnesota is home to one of the most talented players in the league and he’s only going to get better.
When seeing a young big man’s career progress in certain areas, it is hard not to think back to the team’s previous post players and how their careers developed.
Kevin Garnett entered the league as a skinny kid out of high school and by his second season was averaging 39 minutes per game. His points, rebounds and assist totals steadily grew over his first five seasons as become a perennial member of both the All-Star and All-Defensive teams.
Despite the lack of team success in his six year-career, it was always easy to appreciate the constant growth in former Timberwolves forward Kevin Love’s arsenal. He entered the league as a pudgy rebounder and left Minnesota as a fit, all-around offensive weapon. His improvement did not happen overnight, but instead came by adding or improving one or two strengths to his game each season. Whether it was his 3-point shot, his own offensive rebounding or even his outlet passing, he was always adding something new.
In just his second season, Towns appears to have the same trait of constantly wanting to improve. The increase in offensive rebounding is one thing; his 3-point shooting has been another. If Towns can continue to develop on both ends of the floor, Minnesota should have no problem finding team success in the near future.
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