Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is the unanimous winner of the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
The league made the announcement Monday, giving the Wolves back-to-back honorees after forward Andrew Wiggins won the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy last season. The 7-foot Towns received all 130 first-place votes from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters in the United States and Canada, joining Damian Lillard (2013), Blake Griffin (2011), David Robinson (1990) and Ralph Sampson (1984) as recent unanimous winners.
New York’s Kristaps Porzingis finished second, and Denver’s Nikola Jokic was third.
The first pick out of Kentucky in the 2015 draft, Towns ranked eighth in the NBA in rebounds and field-goal percentage and produced the best debut for a big man since Tim Duncan in 1998. The 20-year-old Towns averaged 18.1 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, helping the Timberwolves win 13 more games than the season before.
The Wolves became the first team with back-to-back winners of the award since Bob McAdoo and Ernie DiGregorio with the Buffalo Braves in 1973 and 1974.
Towns was the only rookie to start all 82 games. He was named Western Conference rookie of the month in all six months the award was handed out.
Displaying the polish and poise of a veteran from the earliest stages of his career, Towns showed an elite ability to pass, rebound and score from both the paint and the 3-point line, making him the quintessential big man for the modern era and giving the Timberwolves hope they’ve finally found the star needed to carry them out of the cellar. With Towns, Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad to be coached next season by Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves believe they have the ingredients to finally end a 12-season playoff drought.
Towns had 28 points and 14 rebounds in the second game of the season, a victory over Denver. While many rookies hit a wall in the middle of the long, grueling schedule, Towns only improved as the season went on. He averaged 21.3 points on 55 percent shooting and 11.7 rebounds over the final 31 games.
”People who know me know I’m never satisfied. I’ve never felt like I’ve had a good game,” Towns said last month. ”It’s hard to get me to even say I played good. That’s just in me. I’m just never satisfied. A lot of my friends get annoyed by it. I’m never happy about anything, playing-wise. I always think there’s things I messed up on, things I should’ve done differently.”
Towns plans to donate the Kia he receives for the honor to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society in honor of former Timberwolves executive and coach Flip Saunders, who died in October after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and his two grandparents who died from cancer as well.
The trophy is named for Gottlieb, one of the NBA’s founders. He coached the Philadelphia Warriors to the league’s first championship in 1946-47.