Karl-Anthony Towns is the Minnesota Timberwolves’ best player, and will be for the duration of his career in the Twin Cities. Unless, of course, Andrew Wiggins supplements his world-class combination of size and athleticism with the all-around skill set of which he’s only shown flashes entering his third NBA season.
Where does that leave Zach LaVine in Minnesota’s pecking order? Just behind his more established young teammates, though highlights of his scintillating performance on Monday night make that very, very hard to believe – and absolutely frightening for the rest of the league.
LaVine poured in 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc in just 28 minutes of playing time during his team’s 98-86 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. For anyone still convinced that the two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion is just an aerial artist, this display of shot-making and overall comfort with the ball should finally put that outdated notion to rest.
There just aren’t many players in basketball who make getting buckets look easier than LaVine does. He boasts a beautiful, compact shooting stroke, advanced ball-handling ability that allows him to create space from defenders at will, and an ultra-smooth offensive approach reserved for the game’s most natural scorers.
It’s no coincidence that LaVine is frequently compared to Jamal Crawford, another rangy guard who sometimes renders even the best on-ball defense ineffective. But there’s one big difference between he and the three-time Sixth Man of the Year award winner: LaVine has a gear of explosive athleticism that not even young Crawford could match.
Will that rare attribute be what propels Minnesota’s high-flying 21-year-old to legitimate stardom? Perhaps, but it certainly won’t be enough alone. LaVine needs to exercise better shot selection, diversify his scoring portfolio, and make wholesale improvements on the defensive end to supplant Wiggins and possibly even Towns in the Timberwolves’ organizational hierarchy. And while neither possibility seems especially likely, the mere chance they could come to pass at all shows just how bright the future is in Minnesota.