The 2016 NBA rookie class might end up being the best of all-time. That’s not recency bias. It’s not exaggeration for the sake of selling you on modern basketball.
It’s simply fact. And the two best players in this draft class so far also happen to be two of its biggest, bucking the NBA’s recent trend toward small ball.
Those two bigs, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and New York Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis, went head-to-head over the weekend. And while the latter emerged victorious at the end of the game, Towns got the best of Porzingis with a massive rejection that showed just who rules this draft class:
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Not willing to take our word for it? Then take a look at the play in whole here. Towns is trailing Porzingis coming off the screen in the lane, creating just enough space for the Knicks to think Porzingis should have an easy shot. Instead, Towns springs his trap, swatting Porzingis’ show about 10 rows into the stands. You can see the enthusiasm Towns has for that block in his reaction. Typically, he’s one to try to control a block and gain possession for his team. Here, there was a message to send to his contemporary.
If for whatever reason you’ve only been watching Porzingis with the Knicks and you’ve not seen much of Towns, you’re going to want to get familiar with him very quickly. It’s not just the mammoth defense, with Towns blocking 1.5 shots per game — although as Porzingis will tell you, Towns is really good at that. The first overall pick is averaging 17.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting 53.5 percent from the floor.
Just 10 players (including Towns) have put up those kinds of numbers as a rookie since the 1946-47 season, according to Basketball-Reference, and that list includes names such as Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Pretty decent company.
And just for good measure, Towns is attempting a 3-pointer per game, and hitting them at a 35.8 percent clip. It’s a small sample size from deep, but consider this: Tack on a 35 percent 3-point qualifier, and that aforementioned list shrinks considerably — to Towns alone.
High-five for that? Anyone? No?
We may very well be witnessing the next step in the way the NBA is played. But if you’re not watching the Wolves, you’re missing out.