Karl-Anthony Towns has made the adjustment to the NBA after one year in college look effortless, complementing his prowess on the glass and ability to be an eraser at the rim with a surprisingly effective offensive game.
It didn't come quite this easy this early for Andre Drummond – but it sure is now.
The No. 1 overall pick should have his hands full in the paint as Towns' Minnesota Timberwolves try once again for their first home win Friday night against Drummond's Detroit Pistons.
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Towns leads all rookies in rebounds (10.7 per game), blocks (2.42), field-goal percentage (50.3) and free-throw percentage (90.2) and is second in scoring (15.8), and while it's hardly a shock that he's having success, the sudden nature of it registers as a bit of an eye-opener. He followed a 14-point, 14-rebound performance in Tuesday's 103-91 win at Miami with 21, 12 and six blocks in Wednesday's 104-101 overtime loss at Orlando.
Combined with fellow 20-year-old Andrew Wiggins' star turn – 2014's top pick is averaging 26.0 points in his last seven – and it's easy to see why Minnesota (5-7) is a team on the rise.
''It's tough when you're relying on young guys, but they're growing up fast,'' interim coach Sam Mitchell said.
Drummond's progression from college one-and-done to NBA star took a little more time, but if that leap wasn't official as a third-year player in 2014-15, it is now. He's bumped his scoring average from 13.8 points to 19.1 with Greg Monroe gone, and the league's No. 2 rebounder the past two seasons has upped his average on the boards from 13.5 to an NBA-best 18.9.
“You never see a gap like that,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He's six rebounds ahead of the next guy. Six rebounds a game! They were giving him a hard time in the locker room (after Tuesday's 104-99 win over Cleveland) because he only had 18. He was below his average. … It's pretty phenomenal what he's done to this point.”
As impressive as his point and rebound totals are, his underlying impact on the Pistons (6-5) has been off the charts. When Drummond is on the court, Detroit is outscoring its opponents by 6.1 points per 100 possessions. In the 122 minutes he's sat, the Pistons have been outscored by 24.0 points per 100.
Drummond's also committing fewer fouls per game despite seeing his minutes rise from an average of 30.5 to 37.4.
“Improved maturity and intelligence,” Van Gundy said. “He's played a lot smarter. He's been more solid and disciplined in what he's doing. That's an improvement and a maturity.”
The Pistons lost the final four games of their six-game trip out west before beating the Cavaliers, but they might find the Target Center atmosphere slightly more welcoming. Minnesota is 0-5 at home, where it's allowing 109.8 points per game – 11.1 more than it's surrendering on the road.
Somehow, though, the Timberwolves have consistently had the Pistons' number in recent years. No team has won fewer games over the last five seasons than Minnesota, but it's won all 10 meetings with Detroit by an average of 12.6 points.
Drummond has fouled out in two of the last three against the Wolves.
Though going toe to toe with Towns won't be easy, Drummond should be relieved Nikola Pekovic isn't quite ready to make his season debut as he recovers from an Achilles injury. Pekovic averaged 20.3 points in the last seven meetings with Detroit.
This one could come down to Minnesota's second unit. The Timberwolves' 44.5 bench points per game are second in the league and 25.1 more than the Pistons' NBA-worst 19.4.