As new stars emerge every year in professional basketball, it can be fun to find their historical counterparts. Kobe Bryant reminded us of Michael Jordan. LeBron James is like the modern-day Magic Johnson. Luka Doncic could be the next LeBron. Today’s new generation of up and coming players are no different. Karl-Anthony Towns is blossoming into one of the best players in the NBA. As he continues to improve each year, there’s evidence to suggest Towns may be the next Dirk Nowitzki.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ career so far
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Towns with the first overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. Towns is currently in his fifth season in the pros. Here’s what the big man’s been able to accomplish so far:
- 344 games played
- 22.5 points per game
- 11.9 rebounds per game.
- 2.7 assists per game
- 1.5 blocks per game
- Two-time All-Star selection
- 2015-16 NBA Rookie of the Year
- 2015-16 All-Rookie team selection
- 2017-18 All-NBA selection
Pro Basketball Reference compiles similarity scores that compare players’ career stats to other players in NBA history. Players that Towns’ compares favorably to after four years include:
- Shaquille O’Neal
- Dave Cowens
- Wes Unseld
- Nikola Jokic
- Hakeem Olajuwon
- Dwight Howard
While his numbers may not be similar, one player Karl-Anthony Towns compares favorably to when it comes to the style of his game is Dirk Nowitzki.
Dirk Nowitzki’s Hall of Fame career
Nowitzki retired after last season, amassing what is sure to be a Hall of Fame career. Here’s what the big German was able to accomplish during his illustrious NBA career:
- 1,522 games played
- 20.7 points per game
- 7.5 rebounds per game
- 2.4 assists per game
- 14-time All-Star selection
- 12-time All-NBA selection
- 2006-07 Most Valuable Player
- 2011 NBA Finals winner and Most Valuable Player
Dirk Nowitzki’s greatest accomplishment was when he led the Mavs to an NBA Finals victory over the Miami Heat in 2011. The Heat came off an offseason where they assembled one of the greatest collections of talent the league had ever seen with James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Heat even sent the Mavs into an 0-2 hole to begin the series. But Nowitzki guided the Mavs to wins in the next four and defeated the heavily favored Heat.
How Karl-Anthony Towns may become the next Dirk Nowitzki
The key to this comparison? Towns’ outside game.
Before this season, Towns had been restricted to scoring on the interior. He was a great scorer, but unfortunately not very versatile — the majority of his scoring game from inside. According to SB Nation, that was because his college coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, influenced him to stay away from the perimeter. Calipari refused to let Towns stray from Calipari’s plan, which was to establish him as a presence in the post.
Now that he’s been in the pros for a few seasons, the Wolves are finally letting him shoot. And they’re reaping the benefits:
“Towns is attempting nine 3-pointers per game this season and knocking them down at a 43.5% clip. There are only a handful of players alive who can match that type of volume and accuracy from deep, and none of them carry the weight of superstar expectations like Towns.
How are you supposed to stop a 7-foot, 250-pound big man who can shuffle back to the 3-point line at a moment’s notice like this?”
Of course, the NBA hasn’t seen a big man with this shooting ability since Dirk Nowitzki. If Karl-Anthony Towns can continue to refine his outside shooting while being a threat to score in the post as well, he’ll be as dangerous offensively as the former Mavs’ star — and potentially even more so.