2015 NBA Draft: T-Wolves dilemma – Towns or Okafor?

Jahlil Okafor (Wikipedia)
Jahlil Okafor (Wikipedia)
The NBA Draft is arguably the easiest way for teams to improve their roster. Each year, every team is given a free hand with how they go about evaluating the different NBA prospects who look to finally make their dreams a reality.

Yet, the NBA Draft is also tiresome and unpredictable—with a lot of factors hinged on chance and luck. It’s not every year where you can draft a franchise-changing superstar such as LeBron James or Kevin Durant. There will be years where the talent is not as deep as you want it to be while there where also be times where you would be torn with which player you should draft.

Each team faces such immense pressure to get the job right and to draft the best player possible. The NBA Draft is unforgiving in the sense that it recalls and magnifies past mistakes or what could have. It is not only difficult to assess the present talent of the player but also his upside and potential and whether or not he fits into the franchise’s scheme of things.

This year’s draft is not as deep compared to last season’s. However, this draft promises four sure-fire prospects which have tanking—purposely or not—to draft these potential franchise changing players.

Men In The Middle

Atop this year’s draft and competitively jacking for position as the top overall prospect are two potential franchise-changing centers with contrasting games: Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor.

Okafor has long been dubbed as this year’s best prospect. Standing 6’10 weighing 270 pounds with glove-sized hands, Okafor’s low post game has said to be the best anyone has seen in a long time especially now in an era where basketball is played farther away from the hoop.
However, Towns, throughout the year, has slowly gained ground on Okafor’s position as the best prospect—with some experts already making the switch with him as this year’s best player. Towns length and upside have scouts and GMs raving about how he can alter the complexion of the game with his play.

Okafor is your prototypical center. He gets a lot of his points inside the paint and has an array of moves to allow him to pick the defense apart. His combination of height, heft, and nimble footwork allow him to score and maneuver in tight spaces and is great in inishing inside the paint. In spite of his young age, the freshman who led Duke to this year’s NCAA championship also has great vision and passing—forcing defenses to make the difficult decision whether or not to double him down low.

However, in spite of Okafor’s offensive brilliance, his defense is the major question mark and how will he be able to defend quicker players especially in the pick and roll. Okafor might lack the athleticism to finish over taller players in the NBA. Teams now also question whether or not it is practical to get a back to the basket player like Okafor in this pace-and-space league where little emphasis and touches are given to traditional centers.

Karl-Anthony Towns (Wikipedia)
Karl-Anthony Towns (Wikipedia)
Towns slow ascent has been magnified throughout the Kentucky Wildcats undefeated season ‘til the Final Four. His length and athleticism intrigue teams especially with his potential on the defensive end to challenge and change shots. Towns has a great low post game as he can comfortably finish with both hands but not yet in the level of Okafor’s skill and maturity.

The 6’11 250 pound center has more upside compared to his Duke counterpart. He has more range and consistency to his jump shoot and is already a much better defender. He is also the kind of player every NBA team needs, a versatile defender who can switch out on the pick and roll with his speed while having the athleticism to contest shots inside the paint. However, teams ponder whether or not he can fully reach his ceiling.

Teams are often torn in the battle between the ‘surer’ thing versus the player with the higher upside. Even if Okafor has been the top prospect for the vast majority of the year, Towns—unless anything happens—will be the first player off the board in this year’s draft. This is also because of the fact that the team picking first overall, the Minnesota Timberwolves, have a player in the same mold as Okafor in Nikola Pekovic.

Here’s to hoping that the Timberwolves get it right.

(Tomorrow, a look at the 3rd and 4th pick favorites)