Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins make ESPN’s NBA Best 25 Under 25

Julian Andrews
Mar 7, 2018 5:00 PM ET

Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins were both named to ESPN’s NBA best 25 under 25 list , landing at 4th and 23rd respectively. The folks at ESPN are understandably high on the potential of the 22-year-old Towns, pointing out that he is on track to finish the season shooting over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 85 percent from the line. The only other seven-footer to do this is Dirk Nowitzki in the 2006-07 season. Towns leads the league in double doubles this year with 55, and is averaging 20.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game on the season. The ESPN article also points out that Towns’ defense has been improving, but still has room to grow. Clearly, Wolves fans have reason to be optimistic about Town’s NBA future. Already a dominant offensive player, and given his clear physical skills, he has a chance to become one of the most dominant two-way players in the league. Towns is preceded on ESPN’s list by Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, and 76ers phenom Joel Embiid. Of those three, the most questions remain about Embiid. The 23-year-old has looked like a generational talent when he has managed to stay on the court, but after being drafted with the third overall pick in 2014, he has only just played his 82nd game. It’s up to you to decide if this limited sample size should be viewed as a red flag, or as an indication that the Embiid’s best is yet to come, but Towns has been producing at a high level literally since the day he was drafted. The young Wolves star has never missed an NBA game. Think about that. How many other elite seven-footers can say the same? Knock on wood Wolves fans. Wiggins fell 12 spots on this year’s iteration of the list after being ranked at No. 11 last year. And to be honest, looking at the list, which includes several rookies ranked higher than Wiggins, this feels a little unfair. In February, Wiggins became the sixth-youngest player in league history to score 6,000 points. The only players who managed to do so at a younger age are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady, and he is the third option on a team that has been one of the best in the NBA. Wiggins’ numbers have dipped this year, but they have done so on a team that added an All-Star wing in Jimmy Butler and a score-first point guard in Jeff Teague. Wiggins is an elite athlete, and an excellent finisher (71.1 percent inside three feet!)—a very helpful combination in this league, but with Butler on the team he has been asked to take more of his shots farther away from the basket. While Wiggins has had to adjust his style of play to the new-look Timberwolves, he has responded, especially on defense, producing his best season yet on that end of the court. Wiggins’ defensive statistics may not entirely reflect his improvement there, but coaches and teammates have noticed a distinct difference from previous seasons. Now tasked with carrying a large offensive load on a team fighting for position in a brutal Western Conference playoff race, the 23 year-old Wiggins will have plenty of opportunities moving forward to prove that he deserves recognition as one of the league’s most promising young players.

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