Karl-Anthony Towns was perhaps the most important piece in Kentucky’s near-undefeated season and the freshman shot up draft boards in the process. Will he be the number one pick in the 2015 NBA Draft?
The 7-foot Towns has prototypical size and length for an NBA center. He has long arms that allow him to score with jump hooks or protect the rim defensively. While Towns has a strong frame right now, he can still add some lower body strength for the next level. Towns isn’t an explosive athlete, but is good enough for his size. He runs the floor well and shows athletic movements for a 7-footer.
Although Towns averaged just 21.1 minutes per game in Kentucky’s “platoon” system this season, he was extremely effective when on the floor. Towns averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 56.6% from the field. Towns spent most of his time dominating in the post, as he used a lethal right-handed hook shot to frustrate opponents. He has a wide base to clear space down low and has the length to score over nearly anyone he faces. His low-post game should translate to the next level due to his size. He will need to add some advanced moves on the block, however, to keep NBA opponents guessing.
What separates Towns from the rest of the class is his potential to play both on the block and away from the basket. While he made just two three-pointers for Kentucky on eight attempts, he showed the ability to hit from deep during his time in high school. He has a smooth release and hit some occasional jumpers inside the arc in college. His 81.3% free throw percentage also gives hope that he’ll be able to consistently knock down the mid-range jumper at the next level.
Towns is a solid passer, adding 1.1 assists per contest, and showed the skill level to pass in the high-low. He didn’t face as many double-teams as Jahlil Okafor, but did show the capability to kick out when a second defender came to help. There’s a good chance that he’s skilled enough to slide over to the power forward position if needed.
On the defensive end of the floor, Towns flashed potential to be a solid defender. He blocked 2.1 shots per game and possesses good lateral quickness to defend the pick-and-roll. Towns is also a solid rebounder that finishes possessions with defensive boards.
The key for Towns at the next level will be consistency. His signature performance came against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, where he scored 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, and dished four assists, but that came after scoring just one point and accumulating four fouls against West Virginia. As he didn’t play as much as other elite NBA prospects, he scored less than five points on eight occasions this season.
Towns possesses the highest ceiling in this draft class because of his offensive versatility and defensive potential. The question will be if he can put it all together night after night in the NBA. He also played on a very talented Kentucky squad where he didn’t face as many double-teams and didn’t always defend opposing centers.
Due to his shooting ability, Towns could play alongside an NBA interior scorer. He could complement a low-post scorer and be slotted at either the power forward or center position. Towns should be able to fit on nearly every roster because he can score inside or stretch the floor. He compares somewhat to Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford at the next level. Both can play in the pick-and-roll as a pick-and-pop option or operate out of the high post.
The team with the number one pick will have a hard time passing on Towns. He has the tools to be the best player in this draft, but isn’t as polished as other top prospects. Towns should go in the top two with the potential to be an NBA All-Star in a few years. At worst, he should be a rotational big with the chance to play both the power forward and center positions.
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