After landing in the top two of the 2015 NBA Draft, either Minnesota Timberwolves or Los Angeles Lakers fans are going to welcome Karl-Anthony Towns with open arms. The Kentucky freshman is a perfect fit regardless of the situation he's drafted into and could be a 10-time all-star due to his incredible two-way potential. There is even an outside chance he becomes a transcendent player.
Most years we quarrel over the top players, but there is no debate in 2015. Towns is that talented. The Wolves, interestingly, might actually prefer Jahlil Okafor with the first pick, according to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, but they should take Towns. Okafor is a great prospect in his own right, but Towns is a better one.
Here's a detailed analysis of what Wolves or Lakers fans should expect from Towns:
Towns will be a versatile offensive threat
The conversation about Towns' potential on offense usually begins and ends with his post scoring, but that does the rest of his skills a disservice. It may even end up being a secondary tool once he reaches his prime, but let's begin there anyway.
At 7'0 in shoes, Towns is proficient from the block. His go-to move is a hook shot over either shoulder. It was effective, since at 250-pounds he was larger than most college big men, but it was also predictable. Savvy defenders caught onto it and he initially turned the ball over at a high rate. Towards the end of the year, Towns began using a drop step as a counter move when the hook wasn't there.
Towns displays sound footwork and he finishes with his soft touch in the clip above. Advanced moves like this will slowly be added to his arsenal, which will be necessary for him to maximize his efficiency from the block. But he's so long that he can virtually toss the ball into the rim regardless of the move, so teams will have to focus their attention on him. And when they do ask their guards to dig down, Towns has the vision to find open shooters and deliver accurate passes.
But championships aren't won down low anymore. Towns has arrived at the brink of a new era of basketball, where mobile big men are beginning to take over the league. He's perfect for this new style.
College teams rarely use the pick-and-roll like NBA teams would due to the prominence of zone defenses. But with good footwork and impeccable body control for a player of his size, Towns displayed his elite potential in the rare instances he received the opportunity.
Towns could be a menacing rim runner, rumbling down the lane in the spread pick-and-roll while surrounded by a competent ball handler and three shooters. Wolves fans should drool at the thought of Ricky Rubio dropping dimes to him with Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Martin spotting up from outside.
With his natural feel for the game, he's able to glide to the rim or dunk over the top. This production should also carry over when he receives the ball in transition and via off-ball dive cuts. But considering his dexterity for rolling off screens, defenses may overplay him to prevent at-rim chances, which would open the door for him to pop for mid-range or three-point attempts.
Towns wasn't able to shoot the ball often at Kentucky due to the team's stacked roster, but he did hit 81.3 percent from the line and grew up playing on the perimeter. That's why he was able to pull off that Paul Pierce-like step-back jumper against LSU. The raw tools for a great jumper are there, but fans can't expect Towns to come in right away and shoot the lights out. He must extend his range and develop consistent footwork.
There are times when Towns has an elongated step as he catches the ball, which gives defenders time to close out on him. This wasn't always a problem in college, since he could just put the ball on the floor and drive, but he'll need to speed up his shooting motion -- whether it's with a quicker one-two step or a "hop" that's used by many top shooters now -- against longer defenders in the pros.
Regardless, the Lakers are desperate for perimeter shooting, which Towns can provide if the Timberwolves pass on him. This is especially important playing alongside Julius Randle, who didn't display much potential as a shooter in his freshman year at Kentucky.
Towns also has a nonstop motor that he uses on the offensive boards. Since he's so long, he can sky over defenders to snatch or get a finger on rebound chances. And when he does pull it down, he has a quick jump that lets him pogo stick up for dunks or layups.
Towns will be a great defender down the line
Defense sets Towns apart from Jahlil Okafor. Towns is the cookie monster of shot blocking. He's hungry for blocks and will stop at nothing to swat the ball away. As a freshman, he averaged over four blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which ranks third of all prospects.
This is another reason why he's an ideal fit for the Lakers, because Randle doesn't project as an effective rim protector. In order to magnify each player's strengths, the Lakers must find a shot blocker to pair with Randle, and Towns provides that. But there is also no question that Towns is versatile enough to play next to any of the Wolves' big men.
What's most impressive about Towns' rim protection is his timing and extension. Even though he only has a 29-inch standing vertical, he's able to highpoint the ball due to his long 7'3 wingspan and lightning-quick leap. How fast a shot blocker elevates sometimes matters more than how high he actually jumps. As long as Towns maintains this same level of intensity throughout his career, he'll develop into a great rim protector.
He isn't without his warts, of course. He lacks discipline and consistently bites for pump fakes, which got him into major foul trouble. Even though his appetite for blocks makes an overall positive impact, it also hurt him when he tried to block shots out of his zone, leaving his own man open for offensive rebound chances. Towns also gets overaggressive on the post, which contributed to his foul issues.
But these aren't long-term issues. He has a wide frame, long arms and plays forcefully, so it should only take some seasoning to stop him from reaching and getting called for careless fouls. Learning from the NBA's defensive sage, Kevin Garnett, will do a lot of good for Towns.
Towns should make an instant impact with his pick-and-roll defense. Though he lacks experience, he displayed excellent mobility as a perimeter defender.
Most NBA teams force pick and rolls to the sideline and/or have their big men hang in the paint. Towns can do that, but he can also execute a more aggressive scheme. In the clip above. Towns showed that he can move his feet and recover to the roll man to force a jump ball.
Kentucky switched frequently on defense and Towns showed that he has the lateral quickness to stay glued to smaller, quicker players. Watch him D up against one of the swiftest guards in the nation in Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson.
That's the type of lateral quickness we've come to expect from Willie Cauley-Stein, not Towns. Jackson is a top 2016 draft prospect, so for Towns to stick to his hip on the drive and then make a strong closeout on the step-back three bodes well for his ability to play high-end pick-and-roll defense and curtail mismatches.
Timberwolves and Lakers fans may view Towns as their franchise savior, but they must have patience. Towns might develop into a stud, but he's still only 19 years old and has to develop to reach that level. His weaknesses are easily correctable, but they take time to fix.
But what fans can do is get excited for the process of building a winner. Towns gets them much closer to their hopes of winning a championship than anyone else in this draft.
For more scouting reports like this, purchase my NBA Draft guide, which will be out in June.