The New York Knicks were the worst team in the NBA last season, hoping it translated into winning the first pick of the draft in the lottery. If that does happen, Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky is their number one target.
Towns will still be 19 when the next NBA season begins. Growing up in New Jersey, he played just one season in college, helping Kentucky beat and win against everyone until the day they ran into Kentucky in the Final Four, losing for the one and only time during the season. He averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in just 21 minutes a night, ending up as the SEC freshman of the year, named to the first team All-SEC and second team All-American.
ESPN had an informal poll among scouts & general managers in the NBA, with the large majority choosing Towns as the number one prospect in this draft. Sure, there are other options to choose from, including Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay and maybe even Justise Winslow, but this is Towns’ spot, and money, to lose in the short time left before the draft.
The 6’11 center rose to prominence during the conference play, becoming more and more prominent in the team’s offense at the expense of the slightly fading Willie Cauley-Stein. Towns isn’t just a big man who dunks. He has excellent range, is excellent under the basket on both ends of the floor (2.3 blocks per game) and isn’t a last stop with the ball if there’s someone open.
What he does need to add is some meat around his slightly slender frame. In college it’s fine, but he might need a few more pounds to be dominant in the NBA. Towns doesn’t look like an Anthony Davis, which means a big man who is going to be a superstar in two or three seasons, but someone with a slightly lower ceiling. That’s not a bad player to take, and the Knicks have him first on their board. A team in the lowest point possible doesn’t draft by need; it takes the best player available, hoping he produces right away, and isn’t some long term project that needs a lot of patient developing.