Coming off the Summer of Sano and barreling into November, the list of young up-and-coming Minnesota pro athletes with the potential to steal the hearts of local fans looked as if it started at the top with the slugger who transformed the Twins’ season.
To be sure, it’s a long list with a lot of candidates: from Sano, Byron Buxton and a host of other young Twins … to Teddy Bridgewater, Stefon Diggs and any number of young defensive stalwarts for the Vikings … to Matt Dumba, Jason Zucker or a handful of other more-seasoned but still potential-heavy Wild players.
To be considered, a player had to be young enough that we’ve only had a taste of his or her true potential but established enough that we’d at least seen them play at the highest level. That also meant the likes of NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins and dunk champion Zach LaVine were also in the mix.
But three games into this Timberwolves season — and a week-plus stretch filled with as much emotion as one could imagine — there exists the distinct possibility that the top of this list needs a swift revision.
I have a suspicion that No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns could end up being the most beloved Minnesota athlete of this entire up-and-coming group. The love affair with fans already is beginning.
He’s averaging 17.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in this small sample size, but that only tells a fraction of the story. He displays the requisite charisma needed to charm many Minnesota fans, while Towns also already has proved to be wise beyond his 19 years when talking openly and sensitively about the death of Flip Saunders.
There is a very, very, very long way to go, obviously. And if one of the aforementioned players was to lead the charge in a championship run (like, say, Bridgewater, Sano, Buxton or any Wild player), that player would quite likely vault to the top of this list. And there are players we haven’t even seen yet who could change everything.
The beauty of it is there are so many players from which to choose. When I posted a list on Twitter with Towns at the top, it sparked some passionate debate/agreement among fans.
File it under: nice problem to have. Five years ago, the list of up-and-comers wasn’t even half as long. And really, it would be hard to go wrong with so many of the current crop.
But everything I’ve seen of Towns so far leads me to the conclusion that he is going to wind up being the most beloved of the beloved.