The 2015 NCAA Tournament has come to a close. Duke, led by super freshman Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Jahlil Okafor, knocked off Wisconsin in the title game to claim their fifth championship. The game featured several enticing NBA prospects– Duke’s three fantastic frosh and Wisconsin stars Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker.
Okafor, in particular, was placed under a microscope. The ACC Player of the Year (the only freshman to EVER win that award) was in foul trouble all night, but still managed to record two huge baskets down the stretch, as Duke rallied from down 9 to win. Okafor only managed ten points and 3 rebounds (all offensive) in 22 minutes. His poor performance (poor by his standards) may give NBA teams some doubts about his NBA potential.
Okafor is the most polished offensive center to come out of college in a long, long time. His footwork is good by professional standards. At times he bullied his way in the paint, scoring at ease, both effortlessly and efficiently. While Tyus Jones was the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, and while Justise Winslow turned heads all season with his incredible defense, there’s no doubt who is most to thank for Duke’s title run. It’s Okafor.
He’s a 6’11’’ monster of a man, an incredible offensive prospect who is as pro ready as anyone. At one point, he was a shoe-in for the top overall pick. Now? He may not even be the favorite.
Another center may be taking his spot atop the draft boards. His name is Karl Anthony-Towns, and he spent the year dominating for the 38-1 Kentucky Wildcats.
Towns, a 7’0’’ center from New Jersey, is an absolute beast. His defense is leaps and bounds above Okafor’s, which is why he is favored for the top pick. He can step into whatever teams drafts him and immediately anchor their defense, with his high basketball IQ and outstanding athleticism. His offense used to be a question mark, but now it’s turning into a strength. In Kentucky’s Elite Eight Matchup with Notre Dame, Towns dropped 25 points on 10-13 shooting. That’s very efficient. His jump hook was working all night, and he looked prodigious and powerful in the paint.
An unstoppable force vs. an immovable object. The brilliant Okafor, whose offense leaves many a defender in the dust, whose post game is developed enough to stand out in the NBA, and the wonderful Towns, whose lockdown defense and stellar athleticism pair with his improving offense to make him a complete package type of player.
Okafor’s lack of elite athleticism give him a lower defensive ceiling than Towns. As a game-changer on defense, Towns is the type of player that the NBA is lacking– a rock-solid rim protector. While Okafor will be a star in the NBA, it’s Kentucky’s Karl Anthony-Towns that should be the top pick in this summers draft.
While Towns may be the better overall player, he’s also a better fit for the New York Knicks. The Knicks currently have the worst record in the NBA, which means they have the best chance at snagging the top pick in this summers draft. While they have needs at literally every position (seriously, any player they draft would be an upgrade at their current position except small forward), it’s pretty certain that if they get the top pick, they’ll use it on a center. The question, again, is Towns or Okafor?
The answer, again, is Towns. In the triangle offense, having a big who can handle the ball in the high post, face up, pass, and score facing the basket is absolutely paramount. While Okafor is a fantastic low post, back-to-the-basket scorer, he isn’t a perfect fit in the triangle. Towns is.
Additionally, the Knicks absolutely need a defensive anchor. In the 2012-13 season, when the Knicks were actually good, they had Anthony as their go to scorer (he led the league in scoring that season) and Tyson Chandler as their low post anchor (he was the reigning Defensive Player of the Year). With Towns, they get their defensive anchor– the soon-to-be former Wildcat can become a top 3- defensive center in the East as soon as his rookie season. Okafor isn’t the best defender. While a one-two punch of Anthony and Okafor would give opposing defenses nightmares, Towns makes more sense in the Knicks system and for the Knicks roster.
There is a very good chance that either Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony Towns will be a member of the Knicks next season. While both would bring excitement back to the Garden, if the Knicks have the first pick, Towns should be the direction they go in.