Karl-Anthony Towns is this year’s NBA Rookie of the Year, which is no surprise. It’s perhaps not even a stunner that he won the award unanimously, given just how much he dominated on the court this year (and dominated other awards along the way).
What has the potential to be instructive, though, is a quick look back at other rookies who have similarly won the award in landslide fashion in the past 20 years. In short: the other eight players who have had runaway rookie of the year wins — two who were unanimous and six other cases where nobody else got more than three first place votes — show that Towns is in very good company.
Now, it should be noted that in some cases it meant there wasn’t a great second choice while in other years there was. For instance, LeBron James and Kevin Durant had somewhat closely contested Rookie of the Year races (against Carmelo Anthony and Al Horford, respectively), while Steph Curry didn’t even win the award in 2010 (Tyreke Evans did). So failing to win the award in a big way (or not winning it altogether) doesn’t mean a player won’t have a dominant career.
Still, here are the other eight landslide winners in the previous 20 seasons:
2013: Damian Lillard (unanimous)
2012: Kyrie Irving
2011: Blake Griffin (unanimous)
2007: Brandon Roy
2006: Chris Paul
2002: Pau Gasol
1999: Vince Carter
1998: Tim Duncan
Lillard and Irving are two of the best young guards in the NBA. Griffin is a five-time all-star with career averages of 21.5 points and 9.6 rebounds. Roy was a star with Portland before his body betrayed him. Paul is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Carter and Gasol will almost certainly reach the hall as well. Duncan is one of the greatest players of all-time and the single player Towns most resembles on the court. Those three oldest players were still active this past season.
So of the eight: half of them (the four who have been around the longest) are near-cinches for the Hall of Fame (all better than 93 percent chance, per Basketball Reference). The two most recent, Lillard and Irving, are franchise-altering players. Griffin has been a perennial All-Star. And Roy was trending that way before his knees gave out.
It’s unfair to project exactly what Towns will become based on just one year and using only the past as our guide. That said, he’s at least in good company. And it wouldn’t be surprising if one day we’re talking about Hall of Famer Karl-Anthony Towns.