Not only do the Minnesota Timberwolves have the two most recent No. 1 overall draft picks in their regular starting lineup, but it looks to be a foregone conclusion that at some point this spring, both of those players will have won Rookie of the Year awards too. Last season it was former Kansas Jayhawks stud Andrew Wiggins who ran away with the hardware and this time around we have Kentucky Wildcat Karl-Anthony Towns as the clear favorite in the field. But is there still enough time left in the season for a dark horse to unseat KAT’s firm hold on the award?
If anybody is going to try and make up some ground before the playoffs start, they better begin their run as soon as possible. The Wolves’ big man does not appear to be slowing down, and with his team nowhere near the playoff picture, he’ll get ample opportunities to continue racking up the double-doubles. Coming out of the All-Star break, Towns is averaging 17.1 points per game (tied for first among rookies), 10.1 rebounds per game (first), 1.8 blocks per contest (second), and his shooting percentages are a splendid .544/.375/.852.
No. 32 has started all 54 games for the T-Wolves so far and quite frankly, he has been the best player on the team (even better than Wiggins.) Towns’ 30 double-doubles are way more than his closest competitor and even among all players in the league, he ranks in the top five in the category. We could further prove that through the first 60% of the season, KAT is the easy pick for Rookie of the Year, but let’s talk about a few guys who still have an outside chance.
We begin with a shocking contender, New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis. Knickerbocker fans booed, screamed, and even cried when the team selected the Latvian as the fourth overall pick last year and boy, have their reactions changed. Porzingis has put up 13.9 points, 7.7 boards, and a rookie-best 1.9 rejections per contest through his 54 games. Not only are his blocks the best from first-year players, but they’re also just second and barely behind Pau Gasol for all international players in the NBA. If Porzingis can get New York into the playoffs (they’re five games out of the eighth spot), he’ll be seriously considered for the hardware.
It’s been an uneven, scandalous first half of a rookie season for Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor, but the fact of the matter is that he has the statistics and the potential to get back in this race. The third overall selection is tied with Towns in scoring average and has nearly as many offensive rebounds per game too. It will be a steep hill to climb, but at his rookie-leading 30.4 minutes per game, Okafor will get the chance to make a dent in KAT’s cushion atop the perch in the coming months.
Justise Winslow is unlike Towns, Porzingis, and Okafor for a multitude of reasons and is the least likely player to receive the award if the season ended today. Unlike the aforementioned trio, Winslow’s Miami Heat have a real shot of making the postseason. Up to this point, he has largely been relegated to bench duty, as he started just three contests in his 50 overall games so far.
With some worrying news coming out about Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade being a far bet from suiting up every night, we expect the 10th overall pick to get a lot of shots at making a bigger impact in March and April. We should know by the start of this spring if Winslow or the other two candidates can put some heat on Towns in the Rookie of the Year pursuit.
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