Karl-Anthony Towns took home the trophy for the 3-point contest during the NBA’s All-star weekend. He had a slow start in the first round, scoring only 22 points. However, he was still able to advance to the final round along with Trae Young and Luke Kennard. KAT heated up in the final round, scoring an NBA-record 29 points. The most points scored in any round is held by Steph Curry, who scored 31 in the first round of last year’s contest.
However, that’s not the only way KAT made history last weekend. With his victory, KAT also joined Curry as the only other player in NBA history to win two different All-Star contests. KAT won the Skills Challenge in 2016; Curry won it in 2011.
Towns also became the first big man in the league to win the award since Kevin Love won it in 2012. If you want to split hairs, KAT also became the first center to win the 3-point contest. Dirk Nowitzki won the 3-point contest in 2006. However, he was considered a power forward for much of his career despite playing center at times. He was also listed at 7’0″, an inch taller than Towns. That technicality might not mean much in an NBA that’s becoming more positionless. Players like LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo can play every position when needed to. But it’s still worth celebrating the history Towns made.
KAT hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves around the league for a long time. That’s likely because the Timberwolves front office has struggled to put a good team around him for most of his career. As a result, Towns has only played on two playoff-quality teams. Many media members have stated they prefer to give their All-Star and All-NBA votes to players on winning teams.
As a result, winning the 3-point contest has to be a cathartic and vindicating moment for KAT. According to ESPN, Towns has been petitioning to participate in the 3-point contest for years. He’s had to, even though he’s one of the most consistent shooters in the league since the Wolves drafted him in 2015. When they finally let him join, he not only won the contest but made history. And to top it off, he let everyone who slept on him hear it the night he won.
Will this help people around the league notice KAT’s dominance?
Town’s victory should help him earn recognition for his dominance on the court. Unlike most Wolves games, the All-Star Weekend is a nationally televised event. People who live out of market and don’t have NBA League Pass have limited opportunities to watch KAT play. Minnesota generally has only had a chance to play on TNT or ESPN a few times per season since they drafted KAT.
The All-Star Game is not the most serious event these days. Usually, neither team plays any defense until the fourth quarter. They are mainly concerned with making highlight passes, dunks, or 3-point shots. However, the 3-point contest attempts to measure one individual skill: How consistent your 3-point shot is. Curry is widely known as the best shooter of all time, and KAT was only two points away from his record. It’s going to be something that KAT can add to his resume when pundits weigh in on whether or not he is genuinely the best-shooting big man of all time.
Is he already a better shooter than Dirk?
When people question KAT’s claim to the title of greatest “big man shooter of all time,” they generally point to Nowitzki as the man he has to beat to earn the title. KAT already has a strong claim to the throne in terms of efficiency and accuracy. He currently has the 57th-best 3-point shooting percentage in NBA history, shooting 39.65%. KAT is also seventh all-time in True Shooting Percentage at .6219. Here is a side-by-side comparison of his shooting efficiency stats with Dirk’s, as per Stathead.com.
KAT is the clear leader in all the efficiency categories. Therefore, statistically speaking, he is almost certainly the most efficient big man shooter. The main caveat with the argument of efficiency making KAT the better shooter? The Dallas Mavericks expected him to carry them and be their primary offensive force for much of Dirk’s career. In turn, that means he had to take a ton of shots. Dirk ranks eighth in NBA history, with 23,734 shots taken throughout his career. That’s only about 1,000 fewer shots than Michael Jordan took throughout his career and only 2,500 fewer than Kobe Bryant. It’s incredibly impressive that Dirk retained the efficiency he did while taking so many shots. Many high-volume shooters see a dip in their efficiency due to their expectations to score when no one else on the team can.
Towns is also a high-volume shooter. Like Dirk, he has shot well over 1000 shots per season in years where he’s fully healthy. We may see KAT pass Dirk in volume of shots taken. However, it seems highly unlikely, given that KAT has a better team around him now than he did early on in his career. He also does not need to take as many shots in a game as he used to for the Wolves to win.
Additionally, Dirk played 20 years in the NBA and tallied the fourth-most games played all-time with 1,522. As players enter their mid to late 30s, they often get fewer minutes and take fewer shots per yea. Dirk had a significant drop in his efficiency in his final season at 40 years old. His FG% was .359 after never dropping below .400 previously in his career. That large statistical outlier pulled down Dirk’s career averages a bit.
KAT has a long career ahead of him and could see his efficiency numbers drop with age as Dirk did. It could also rise as KAT becomes a seasoned veteran and gains more experience. Only time will tell. However, the more accolades KAT receives throughout his career, the more the national media will recognize him as the best shooting big man. It’ll be fun to watch him establish an undeniable claim to the title he deserves as his career goes on.