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Wolves' Towns has been 'unreal,' but is he really an All-Star?

MINNEAPOLIS -- Timberwolves rookie guard Kris Dunn needed just one word to describe teammate Karl-Anthony Towns: "Unreal." "Definitely an all-star in my opinion, for sure," Dunn said. "He can do so much for the team ... rebound, scoring, passing ...

Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts after being called for a foul against the Phoenix Suns in the second quarter on Tuesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts after being called for a foul against the Phoenix Suns in the second quarter at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Jan. 24, 2017, in Phoenix. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Timberwolves rookie guard Kris Dunn needed just one word to describe teammate Karl-Anthony Towns: "Unreal."

"Definitely an all-star in my opinion, for sure," Dunn said. "He can do so much for the team ... rebound, scoring, passing the ball. He's definitely a big piece to the team, and we're glad to have him."

Towns is on the Western Conference all-star team bubble heading into Thursday night, when the all-star reserves will be announced on TNT. Reserves are voted on by NBA coaches, so endorsements from teammates like Dunn won't sway the results.

Already named to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge - All-Star weekend's Friday night competition reserved for the game's best first- and second-year players - Towns' basic numbers suggest he's in the upper echelon of NBA players.

He is 19th in the league in scoring (22.4 points per game), eighth in rebounds (11.9) and 14th in blocked shots (1.5). He's also eighth in the NBA in efficiency, a stat derived from various numbers to determine a player's overall value.

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But that might not be enough to solidify a spot on the West squad. There are seven reserve spots up for grabs, and players like Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins figure to be locks for four of them.

So that leaves three spots and likely one opening for a forward, maybe two.

Towns will have to edge out guys like Marc Gasol, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert for a spot.

Will he get in? These are the factors working for and against the Wolves' second-year standout.

Why he'll make it

β€’ STATS: As pointed out before, Towns is punching in an elite weight class statistically, with points, rebounds and block numbers that go stride for stride with Kevin Garnett when "The Big Ticket" was making all-star teams in his early 20s. You know who else is averaging at least 22.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocked shots and three assists per game this season? Nobody.

β€’ RECENCY: If there's any sense of "what have you done for me lately?" in the coaches' all-star voting, Towns is a shoo-in. At the end of December, he probably wasn't in serious contention for an all-star spot. His numbers were all lower than they are now. He was having trouble dissecting double-teams opponents were throwing at him and occasionally was making poor decisions at inopportune times. But in his past eight games, Towns is averaging 27.3 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, two blocks and 1.1 steals. He's shooting 64 percent from the field and 86 percent from the free-throw line during that span.

β€’ VALUE: All-star selections are not meant to mirror Most Valuable Players ballots, but Towns' value to the Wolves has been evident this season, particularly of late. Over his recent eight-game tear, the Wolves are 6-2. His transcendence has coincided with a winning stretch that has lifted Minnesota into the playoff mix. Towns is playing better defense, and everything the Timberwolves are doing on offense is running through the big man. "He's playing out of his mind right now," teammate Andrew Wiggins said. "There's nothing he's not doing."

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Why he won't

β€’ STATURE: Towns has done about as much as he can through a season and a half to establish himself as an NBA star. He roared onto the scene as a rookie on his way to the Rookie of the Year award and has followed that up with another strong start. Still, ascending to the top of the NBA's list of most popular and recognized players takes time, particularly when you haven't appeared in the playoffs. Towns might be on his way to being the kind of player all NBA fans have to turn on the TV to see, but he's not there yet.

β€’ DEFENSE: Those looking for a knock on Towns point to his advanced defensive statistics. Sure, Towns has blocked shots this season and come up with the occasional steal, but the Wolves are giving up 110 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor, the third-highest such number on the team. And Towns' defensive real plus-minus, which gauges each player's individual contributions on that end of the floor, ranks 326th out of 440 players. By contrast, Gobert, Utah's center and a front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year, ranks first in the league in that category.

β€’ LOSING: Again, all-star selections aren't MVP ballots, where winning rules the day, but playing for a losing team never helps a player's cause. A poor record didn't negatively affect Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who is an all-star starter, nor is it likely to affect Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins. But Towns' numbers, while impressive, aren't quite to the level of players like Cousins and Davis, who have been around the block a few more times. That helps them overcome a lot of losses. But if the Wolves had a winning record right now, Towns almost certainly would be an all-star lock with his numbers.

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