Minnesota Timberwolves: Is Towns better than Garnett at the same age?

Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Kevin Garnett is the best player, so far, to ever wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey. Minnesota drafted him fifth overall in 1995, the first player in 20 years to come straight out of high school. Despite his young age, Garnett quickly became Minnesota’s star player. He remained their lone All-Star, but he never brought them a championship, though, and was eventually traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007.

After that, the Minnesota Timberwolves struggled to find their new star until they drafted Karl-Anthony Towns with the first overall pick in 2015. Towns is Minnesota’s new franchise player, embodying all their championship aspirations, but is he better than Garnett was at the same age? The two big men have rather similar styles of play, despite entering the game in different eras.

Garnett was known as a great defender but also as a dangerous finisher who opponents did not want close to the basket. Likewise, Towns made himself known as a menace in the paint while also being a great shooter behind the three-point line. Both do not fit the center stereotype that ruled the league for so long.

Garnett was actually one of the first bigs to successfully and regularly take on a playmaking role and push the ball up and down the court. By doing that, he stepped out of the realm of traditional big man play and paved the way for non-traditional centers like Towns nowadays.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Comparing Resumes

Towns is currently 26 years old and on his rise through the NBA ranks. He started his ascent early on by winning Rookie of the Year and being named to the All-Rookie First Team. Since then, he has been an All-Star three times and made the All-NBA Third Team twice. At the same age, Garnett had a similarly stacked resume.

He did not have quite as good of a rookie season as Towns and “only” made the All-Rookie Second Team, but in his second season, he was already an All-Star. In the same season, he led the Timberwolves to the franchise’s first playoff appearance. By the time he was 26, Garnett had been an All-Star every year since his sophomore season, except for 1999 due to the lockout. He was also named to four All-NBA teams and received All-Defensive First Team honors three times in that time span.

In 2000, at only 24, Garnett added an Olympic Gold Medal to his already impressive resume. Two years later, he led the league in defensive rebounding and led the Timberwolves in all five major statistics. After the age of 26, Garnett went on to make many more All-Star appearances, win an All-Star MVP, become the league MVP, and win a championship with Boston.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Towns still has some catching up to do.

So far, Towns’ accolades are not as numerous and impressive as Garnett’s, but he is on his way to matching Garnett’s resume. One thing he is definitely better at is shooting. Towns established himself as one of the best shooting big men in the game and even won the 2022 three-point contest. He shoots a lot more threes than Garnett ever did, partly because he is more talented and partly because this particular aspect of the game has changed a lot since Garnett’s era.

It actually took Towns only 475 games to score 11,000 points, while it took Garnett 575. Towns’ highest scoring game so far was the 60 points he recorded against the San Antonio Spurs in 2022. Garnett’s best scoring game was when he put up 47 points against the Phoenix Suns in 2005.
Towns might be the better scorer between the two, but Garnett is a far superior defender. He made 9 all-defensive first teams over his career, including three before the age of 26, and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

At that end of the floor, Towns is nowhere near being on the same level as Garnett. In fact, Towns often struggles to have a positive impact defensively, while Garnett could score and was also a defensive force. So, while Towns is a very talented player with a bright future, he is not better than Garnett was at the same age. Towns still has a ways to go but could challenge Garnett’s status as Minnesota Timberwolves’ all-time best if he stays there long enough.

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Now that he has such a talented roster around him, he should be able to flourish offensively and as a scorer. Maybe he can even lead the Minnesota Timberwolves further into the playoffs than they ever managed to under Garnett’s leadership and leave his own mark on the franchise’s history.