With 70 seasons now in the books, the National Basketball Association has a rich history and a bright future. Many stars have come and gone across the NBA landscape, forever cementing their mark as superstars and legends. From Wilt, to Kareem, to Magic & Bird, to Jordan, to LeBron, we have seen greatness since the inception of the NBA. With the future of basketball now on the horizon, the question is “who’s next?”
Just four months ago, we witnessed perhaps the greatest Finals performance in NBA history by one of the league’s best players ever. Superstar LeBron James showcased his skillset, leading both the Cavaliers and the Warriors in every major statistical category. LeBron is the first player to do so in a playoff series. The monstrous series by LeBron showed what a superstar is worth. However, LeBron is on the wrong side of 30-years-old and has a ton of mileage. He enters his 14th season this year and has shown no signs of slowing down, but we all know father time always wins.
Along with LeBron, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are superstars in their own right. However, these two have had injury issues and will both be touching age 30 within the next three years. The league also trots out another tier of great players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Chris Paul. This tier could be considered superstars as well, depending on your opinion.
For me, I like to define a superstar as a guy that can get you to the playoffs no matter what the situation is. Per my definition, if you put this guy on one of the recent Philadelphia 76er teams, he would’ve gotten you to the playoffs. I don’t believe anyone can flat out win a championship alone (considering it’s never been done), so I use the playoffs as my benchmark.
With all that being said, the current superstar class isn’t going to last forever so who’s next in line? Who’s going to not only average 27-7-7 or 25-12-4, but get their team much-needed wins throughout the regular season?
There are a lot of candidates for the next consensus ‘Best Player in the World’ title. Players that immediately come to mind are Joel Embiid, Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons, Andrew Wiggins, and even Anthony Davis. However, there is a name that shines brighter than all these – Karl-Anthony Towns.
Having just completed his rookie year, Towns or KAT as some people call him, is on the brink of greatness. As a freshman at the University of Kentucky, Towns averaged 10.3 points-per-game, 6.7 rebounds-per-game, and 2.3 blocks-per-game. Those block numbers are impressive. However, the PPG and RPG are a bit underwhelming. In his Kentucky days, Towns looked very talented but also looked as if he may be a little raw. In addition to his raw look, some suggested that Kentucky Coach John Calipari’s system might have been holding Towns back because it is based more on a team concept than having individuals shine.
After opting to leave Kentucky and enter the NBA Draft, Towns was selected number one overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Originally, many reports said that fellow rookie star Jahlil Okafor could be the first overall pick, but the Timberwolves quickly quieted those reports and confirmed Towns as their guy.
In his rookie year, Towns made the Timberwolves’ front office look pretty damn good for choosing him. Towns averaged 20.6 PPG, 11.7 RPG, and 1.9 BPG. The shackles of Calipari’s system were off, and Towns was unleashed. Towns proved to be not just a great interior defender, but also a dominant low-post player as well as a great rebounder. In addition to his impressive stats, Towns also posted a 22.5 player-efficiency-rating and he shot 54.2 percent from the field. These numbers put Towns in a class with Tim Duncan. Towns’ numbers are the best the NBA has seen since Duncan’s rookie season (1997).
As the Timberwolves move into the future, they appear to be on the right track. They have a nice young core around Towns with players like Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, and Kris Dunn. This young core combined with Towns’ budding skillset has KAT looking like he will achieve superstar status. He might even do it quicker than you think.