by Frank McLean
The Minnesota Timberwolves are the definition of a team in rebuilding. They have been stockpiling young talent for the past couple of seasons to try and compete in the NBA’s tough Western Conference.
On draft night the Timberwolves took a 19-year-old center from the University of Kentucky named Karl-Anthony Towns. The team already had 20-year-old Canadian superstar forward Andrew Wiggins and another 20-year-old in guard Zach Lavine. And don’t forget Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio, this is team that full of what ESPN’s Dick Vitalle would call “Diaper Dandies”.
When you look at this group it gives the team a core to build a possible long term contending run in the league around. Towns, is the finishing piece of the Timberwolves version of a core-four as some will call it. Not unlike what the New York Yankees did years ago when they built a long championship run with their core-four of young talent named Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera. The Timberwolves seem to be building their basketball team a similar way.
Towns is made to be ready to make his mark a little faster than Wiggins, Lavine and Rubio as he comes out of the University of Kentucky, which has as unique a college basketball program as you will find the NCAA.
Head coach John Calapari is one of, if not the best recruiter of high school talent in the United States. His Wildcat teams are consistently in the hunt for the SEC championship and NCAA championships on a roster of players mostly made up of freshmen who leave after one year for the NBA draft.
Calapari has a knack of getting kids ready in just one year for the NBA draft. It’s a one year crash course to get you ready for the pros. In Towns only year at Kentucky he averaged 21.1 minutes, 10 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, putting him in the top 10 of draft eligible players this past summer.
When asked, Towns gives all the credit for being in the NBA after one year of college to Calapari and the coaching staff at Kentucky getting him ready.
“It just shows how great a coach and a coaching staff we have (at Kentucky) the fact of the matter is we get to speed up the process,” Towns said. “It’s probably the best program in the world they get us ready for the pressure and for this moment (the NBA). They did a great job of getting us all ready.”
A benefit of being drafted by the Timberwolves is the fact that you get to be a part of a course call NBA 101. This one is taught by Andre Miller, Tayshaun Prince and of course Kevin Garnett, which Towns says it is giving him lessons in leadership just by have these three players mentoring him.
“I’m just blessed, not many times you have vets on your team but having vets that are very talented, very willing teammates teaching you how to be true professionals,” Towns said.
This is a young team, but when the core of your team is aged between 19 and 22 you are going to get beaten up lots of nights in the NBA.
Many players have come into this league too young and after 3 or 4 four years of losing and losing bad they don’t develop into the top flight NBA players they were selected to be. Towns is a 19-year-old center playing against grown men. He is going to get beat up. It’s part of the learning experience playing center in the NBA.
However, with Garnett, Miller and Prince in the locker room, Towns and the rest of the core-four have people to lean on when things get tough, and believe me for the next couple of years things will be tough. But when you look at Towns, not only do you see a wide eyed rookie, but someone who is very articulate and when you walk away after talking to him you think the kid is going to be all right.
This Timberwolves team is going to lose somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60 games this year. However, they are going to be fun to watch. The young talent will get better. There are veteran players in the dressing room for these kids to lean on and Towns is the final piece of the puzzle for this team, now they just got learn and get better.
Give this team two full seasons to grow and Timberwolves will be back in the playoffs for sure.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.
The Patrick Patterson, Luis Scola battle for the starting spot at forward is getting interesting to watch. And don’t forget home town boy Anthony Bennett, who pulled off dunk against the Lakers this past Thursday night that raised a few eye brows. Bennett is getting a chance to show off what he can do at forward with James Johnson being slowed by injury.