Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points, Zach LaVine totaled 21 and Andrew Wiggins added 20 in the Timberwolves’ 114-107 loss at Cleveland on Monday night.
The trio of 20-year-olds are the first set of teammates under age 21 to score at least 20 points in the same game in NBA history. The only other trio to match this feat at age 21 or younger was Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
This stat offers Wolves fans hope that better days might not be too far down the road. Durant and Westbrook were 21 years old and Harden 20 when they each scored 20-plus points on Nov. 20, 2009. That same season, Oklahoma City won 50 games and qualified for the postseason for the first time in five years.
Seven years later, Oklahoma City and its now mature stars Durant and Westbrook visit Minneapolis Wednesday night having played in three of the last five Western Conference Finals and one NBA Finals.
Harden has since moved on to help lead the Rockets to three consecutive playoff appearances and one conference finals.
Though the Wolves would have to win 34 of their final 36 to win 50 games and have a lot of ground to make up if they hope to make the playoffs, highlights like Monday argue Towns, Wiggins and LaVine could have the same makeup necessary to build something special like Oklahoma City.
Durant was the No. 2 overall pick in 2007 and the then-Seattle Supersonics finished with a 20-62 record. The franchise moved to Oklahoma City the next season and drafted Russell Westbrook with the 4th overall pick. Durant and Westbrook led the Thunder to a 23-59 record their first year together. James Harden was the third overall pick in 2009 and in the trio’s first year together Oklahoma City finished 50-32, losing in the first round of the playoffs to eventual NBA champion the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Thunder made the playoffs the next four years with the streak ending last season.
After finishing 40-42 in 2013-14, the Timberwolves chose LaVine 13th in the 2014 draft. Later that summer, they acquired Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, from Cleveland for Kevin Love and finished 16-66 -- though Wiggins went onto win Rookie of the Year. The Wolves won the 2015 draft lottery and chose Towns first overall. After starting the year 8-8, they are tied for second-to-last in the West with a 14-32 record.
The playoffs are a long shot in the first year LaVine-Wiggins-Towns have played together, but give Towns and Wiggins a few years of experience and 50 wins might not sound so far-fetched. Towns arguably is to the Wolves what Durant is to the Thunder, but Durant was the first piece of the trio for Oklahoma City and Towns has come onto the scene last for the Wolves.
Another pair of stats driving the idea of this comparison is Towns and Wiggins’ points per game average. Wiggins is averaging 20.8 points a game and Towns 16.1. The only other team in NBA history to have two 20-year-olds average 15-plus points was the 2008-2009 Thunder when Durant averaged 25.3 a game and Westbrook 15.3.
LaVine is averaging 12 points per game and if he’s able to reach 15 by the end of the season, the Wolves would become the first in NBA history to have three 20-year-olds averaging 15-plus points a night.
Even if the Wolves’ young trio doesn’t mature as quickly as Durant-Westbrook-Harden, they have at least two more years on their contracts together to build something special, pending any trades. Wiggins and LaVine become restricted free agents in 2018 and Towns in 2019.