This is easily my favourite time of year. There is just so much to be thankful for. Winter is gone and the sun is starting to stir life back into the countryside.
The NBA playoffs are rapidly approaching, teams are gearing up for a chance to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy and to achieve immortality. Players are saving their best for when it really counts, both in the NBA and NCAA.
March Madness is coming to its crowing conclusion. Four teams remain; Duke, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Kentucky. Many potential NBA prospects are still there but there is no doubt in most people's minds that either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor will be taken with the first pick should they both declare for this year's draft.
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You can't really go wrong with either player. Both are extroadinary talents that have many NBA scouts and GMs drooling. Okafor is the player of the year front-runner having led Duke to a number 1 seed and a Final Four berth thanks to his astounding 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds a game on a mind-blowing 66.8 field-goal percentage.
He is simply unguardable in the post and possesses the strength, touch and skill of a young Tim Duncan. He does however have some big flaws: His defense has been less than impressive highlighted by his meager 1.4 blocks a game. He isn't very athletic and his quickness leaves something to be desired as well. He'll average 20 plus points within his first few seasons in the NBA, but unless he finds a way to improve on the other end of the floor, his ceiling will be significantly lowered.
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And now to Towns. At first glance people may wonder why on earth he is being heavily considered as the first overall pick. His per game numbers this year are far less impressive than Okafor's. 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds don't exactly scream number one pick. But he's done it all in nearly 10 minutes less per game than Okafor.
He's just as physically dominant as Okafor at 7 feet and weighing 250lbs, but he has more finesse moves at his disposal than his counterpart. Okafor has simply been able to physically dominate his oppenents at the college level. That simply won't be as effective in the NBA going up against the likes of Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol. There are some big guys in the league who regularly deal with physical match-ups.
Towns has a good outside touch that will become extremely useful in his early NBA career while he builds up his strength and confidence. I could easily see Towns becoming a more than decent three-point threat in the near future. He has the stroke and all it needs is some practice. Okafor simply doesn't have this yet and it will be much harder for him to develop.
Towns is also a lot further on defensively than Okafor. The Kentucky freshman averages 2.3 blocks every 20.8 minutes compared to Okafor's 1.4 blocks every 30.3. Towns's athleticism really helps him here. He is much more agile and has a reported 36.5 inch vertical leap, which is terrific for a big man. He uses this along with his 7' 4" wingspan to either block or alter most shots that come his way.
Towns is like a true NBA center in all ways except one; he is terrific at the free-throw line. Traditionally big men have had problems at the line (see Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan) but Towns has shot an incredible 81.7% from the the charity stripe. This will mean that NBA defenses can't simply foul him and send him to the line because he is a major threat from there. To contrast, Okafor only converts just over half of his attempts at 51.1%.
Both big men are unselfish and good passers, but Towns reads the game better. He has played brilliantly alongside Willie Cauley-Stein and Towns has always made the right play when Cauley-Stein has been available for drop-offs and alley-oops. You can really run your whole offense through Towns, whether it been from the low-post, high-post or the pick and roll.
Hopefully we get to see a Towns-Okafor matchup in this year's NCAA Championship. The two big men are destined to have many clashes in the next ten to fifteen years and it would be very fitting for their first to come on such a big stage with so much at stake.
I maintain that Towns has the higher NBA ceiling and only time will tell, but I will leave you with this. The Admiral David Robinson was the last player in the NBA to get a quadruple-double in 1994. Towns managed to get one at high school level, and he has the tools to accomplish this great feat at the top level too.
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