The following is a sample from an article that will be written nine years from now – probably:
May 29th, 2025 – After their 103-97 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, the Minnesota Timberwolves have yet again reached the NBA Finals, where they look to become the first team to three-peat since the Golden State Warriors from 2015-17.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 29 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists in another dominating effort for the league’s MVP. Andrew Wiggins, the best perimeter defender the league has seen since Kawhi Leonard in his prime, scored 21 points while shadowing everyone from Devin Booker to Brandon Ingram.
Behind one of the best duos the league has ever seen, Minnesota has dominated the league all season long. Although they took a step back this year after coming up two games short of the 2016′ Warriors record of 73 wins in the regular season last year, they still were 64-18, the best record in the league. They will have home court advantage in the Finals against the Kristaps Porzingis-led Knicks.
“I look forward to the challenge, and am looking forward to joining some elite company with a three-peat if we are so fortunate enough to achieve that,” said Towns probably. “It would be and honor to be mentioned among the likes of Bill Russell, MJ (Michael Jordan), Shaq(uille O’Neal), Kobe (Bryant), and Steph (Curry).”
Obviously, no one has any clue if the Timberwolves will actually be a three-time NBA champion nine years from now. What we do know, as of April 6th, 2016, is that the combination of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns could be a dominating duo for years to come.
First of all, it’s hard to ignore the rookie season Towns is having. Check out these numbers from these three players (all stats are per 100 possessions):
Player A: 30.7 points, 18.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 4.6 blocks, 1 steal, 5 turnovers, 56.3% Effective Field Goal %(eFG), 59.2% FT, 22.9 PER
Player B: 29.3 points, 16.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 3.5 blocks, 0.9 steals, 4.7 turnovers, 54.9% eFG, 66.2%, 22.7 PER
Player C: 28.8 points, 16.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.7 blocks, 1.1 steals, 3.6 turnovers, 55.7% eFG, 82.5% FT, 22.8 PER
Maybe you have a preference of one over the others, but all seem pretty close, right?
Player A is Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie season. Player B is Tim Duncan’s rookie season. Player C is Karl-Anthony Towns this season. He’s putting up what may be the best rookie season by anyone since Duncan, and is comparing favorably to two of the best big men in NBA history at this stage.
Obviously, Towns will never be as physically imposing as Shaq and will likely never be as much of a technician in the post as Duncan. However, he has a better assist/turnover ratio and shoots a respectable 34.6% from beyond the arc, both traits are are very important for the future of the NBA’s big man. There’s no other way around it – Towns has MVP, best player in the league potential, and should be in line for a long streak of All-Star Game appearances as early as next season.
Though Wiggins’ ceiling appeared to be “the next LeBron James”, he hasn’t quite lived up to those levels of expectations in his career thus far. However, this is not to say he has been a disappointment – far from it, actually.
Wiggins has improved in nearly every aspect of the game from his rookie year. He has improved his shooting (45.4% eFG last year vs. 47.9% this year) on a higher usage rate (22.6% vs. 27.2%) while also getting to the free throw line at a higher rate (.410 FTA/FGA vs. .437).
That last point is critical – for an athlete like him, getting to the free throw line and converting those attempts will account for a large percentage of his points. This season, Wiggins is getting to the line at a better rate than guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and Paul George, to name a few. This is a fantastic sign, especially considering one of Wiggins’ biggest flaws in college was his lack of assertiveness.
There are some trends with Wiggins that, while not concerning yet, are something to monitor over the next few years. He was a better rebounder last season, regressed as a three point shooter, and did not improve much as a playmaker. However, he’s only been able to drink legally (in America) for a month; he has plenty of time to grow into the superstar that he has the potential to be.
The combination of Wiggins and Towns should be a lethal one going forward. The returns on their first season together are similar to Oklahoma City’s first season with Durant and Westbrook; even though they haven’t really surrounded them with great role players, OKC is still a team that would be contending for a title in any normal year. Minnesota will also add another high draft pick (if I ran the Wolves, that would be Buddy Hield or Kris Dunn if they can’t get Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram) to add to their young core. Also, the Timberwolves will need to add shooters as Wiggins and Towns mature, as they are currently one of the worst three point shooting teams in the league.
However, it is nearly impossible to see the potential of this duo and not get excited. They are maddeningly inconsistent, but have picked up some pretty impressive since the All-Star Break – notably, vs. Boston, @ Oklahoma City, and @ Golden State last night. This is the kind of potential this young squad has, and it should attract one of the top available coaches in the offseason (personally, I believe David Blatt would be a great fit for this team, but we’ll see who they land).
No matter what happens with the Timberwolves over the next few years, one thing is for sure – they have one of the most promising futures in the league, and should be among the NBA’s elite by the end of the decade thanks to the unique duo of Towns and Wiggins. Watch out, NBA – the Timberwolves are coming with a vengeance.
*All statistics are courtesy of Basketball Reference, and are accurate before the Timberwolves’ win on Tuesday over Golden State.