For Karl-Anthony Towns, the present is absolutely a gift. When Towns was drafted, he was picked mostly on his IQ and potential instead of what he could immediately bring to a team. Many didn’t expect Towns to start, let alone be a front runner in the Rookie of the Year race. Now the internet is making arguments that Towns should maybe even be an All-Star.
KAT is producing at levels that puts him in line with Hall of Famers. Towns has a PER that should end up in the top 10 all time for a rookie here. Towns is doing this despite playing only a year in college whilst many others on this list played at least a couple years of college basketball before entering the NBA. To add to that, Towns is playing less than 30 minutes, much less than most of those on the previous Rookie PER list. Towns’ combination of potential due to his age and production is uncanny to what the league has seen before.
While it may not be saying much, Towns in a short time-span has been the most productive player on the Wolves’ young team. All advanced statistics point towards him being the most valuable player on the floor for the Timberwolves. He has been consistent for the most part in this young season. He is second on the Wolves in scoring and leads the team in rebounds, blocks, and field goal %.
The cremé de la cremé of NBA prospects though happens to be Anthony Davis. Davis was in contention of the MVP award last season in only his third season. Davis put up monstrous numbers, putting up 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks a game while leading the Pelicans to the playoffs. The unibrow has been more exposed though this season as the team has struggled to gain traction and improve any. Davis is still managing to put up similar numbers nonetheless. Davis is an outstanding defender, incredible rim protector, and can score in multiple ways. Both guys are products of the University of Kentucky, in which their head coach John Calipari prepared both of them to carry NBA franchises.
So, if you had to build a team around one of these guys, Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, who do you take?
A couple of things immediately. There isn’t a right answer to this question. Both are incredible assets. There are many variables to the ‘starting a franchise’ question. What is your team’s strategy? When do you want to win? Who are the players around this specific player? Many more. Just have fun with the debate.
The obvious choice is Davis. Anthony Davis has a few things that edge Towns right away. Davis is a better player now. He is a better scorer. Better rebounder. Better shot blocker. He is a sure thing. To mitigate risk, the easy choice is Davis. He is still very young at only 22 years old. He has tons of potential still. He is developing a jump shot and can safely put the ball on the floor for a big man. He is also a freak athlete, which can be a gift and a curse as his career progresses.
Towns has a couple things going for him, but nothing that truly gives him a great advantage over Davis today. The case for Towns is heavily dependent on his potential on both ends of the floor. Towns could be about as good a defensive anchor as Davis. Towns’ offense game though is more versatile as he could be better at creating his own shot already. Towns also has a jump shot that demands respect and extends over the 3-point line. Towns being a defensive presence that can shoot is one of the most unique combinations a player at his position can possibly be.
While many would end the debate there, there should be a case made for Towns even over simply his potential. As mentioned before, the dependence on Davis’ athleticism can sometimes be a hinderance later in his career. Seeing the drastic drop off in athletic big men’s games like Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, or even Kevin Garnett, can be alarming. Towns have less dependence on his athletic ability and more so on his basketball IQ suggests that his game could have the longevity in his career similar to that of Tim Duncan and Dirk. A lot of times athletic players are forced to reinvent their games midway through their careers while more IQ reliant players seem to have more consistency in the long run.
Most GM’s in the NBA would probably take Davis because it is safe. But a more bold, forward-thinking GM would probably build around Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns is a more high risk, high reward choice. I would imagine that more than 1/4 of General Managers by next season will want to start a franchise with Towns over Davis.