Who should be the first overall pick in the draft?

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 24, 2015 5:00 AM

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Karl-Anthony Towns (F/C, Kentucky)

When it comes to No. 1 picks, if you can whittle your options down to two or three players, the deciding factor is almost always: Who has the most potential to be transcendent? So while I have to note that D’Angelo Russell could very well end up being the best player in this draft, Karl-Anthony Towns will justifiably be the first pick.

At a mobile 6-11 with a solid frame near 250 pounds, Towns has the physical tools to be a versatile playmaker on the defensive end, defending either the rim or against the pick-and-roll. Being an imposing defender is the most valuable asset of the traditional big man, but Towns combines that with unique skills perfectly crafted for today’s NBA.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari played Towns in the post more than he had ever played in his life, with scouts learning after the college season that Towns has a remarkable jump shot and could prove to be one of the better overall shooters in the draft.

As disruptive as he projects to be defensively, the notion that he could someday resemble a stretch-post player such as LaMarcus Aldridge on the offensive end is a player worth salivating over.

The Timberwolves have Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng as more of the “true center” players, allowing Towns more freedom away from the basket on both ends, which will benefit both him and the team. Furthermore, a future two-headed monster of Towns and 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins is a daunting duo on both ends of the floor.

The Timberwolves have three good options with Towns, Russell, and Jahlil Okafor, but Towns could someday be a superstar all over the floor. As a rim-protecting, floor-stretching post player, Minnesota simply cannot pass on him.

— Kyle Mann

D’Angelo Russell (G, Ohio State)

Any way the draft goes down, one thing is clear — D’Angelo Russell is NBA ready.

Russell is an elite scorer, passer and is clearly a guard with above average ball handling.

His athletic ability for a majority of the season was nothing special; he did however show flashes of brilliance at Ohio State, showing that he could carry an average team through what is undoubtedly one of the toughest conferences in men’s college basketball.

Much of his critics attack his defensive skills; however, the most important point to be made against this is that what he lacks defensively is coachable, especially so by NBA-level coaching.

So what about going as the No. 1 draft pick to the Timberwolves?

There’s not a lot you can knock about Karl-Anthony Towns; he is a wizard in the post and has shown an ability to knock down mid-range shots. But there is something that most overlook: the NBA is moving away from traditional centers.

In the ’90s, there were some seriously incredible centers, not that they don’t exist today, but if you play a center in the NBA, the other team can just play the stretch-4 style and have the second forward cover the center on defense and pile up points on the other end.

While there is no denying Towns is the most complete player in the draft, the transformation of the game cannot, I repeat, cannot be ignored — especially by the Timberwolves.

At the beginning of the season, other prominent first-pick prospect, Jahlil Okafor, was heralded as the best big man of this millennium.

Okafor is better than Towns at scoring in the post but can’t hit a shot outside 10 feet to save his life.
His free throws are also just over 50 percent (Towns sits pretty at 81 percent).

So assuming his team is really good at offense, and it’s late in the game and it is going to score, opponents can just foul Okafor, making him a liability.

And then there is Okafor’s defending, especially his struggle to contain the pick-and-roll at all.

So that leaves Russell.

The Timberwolves need Russell to score because, well, Ricky Rubio can’t (he’s just over 35 percent on field goals). Rubio really does not have a solid jump shot and definitely has trouble finishing near the rim.

I think above all Russell is not just the safest option but the smartest.

— Rafael Gelfand

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