Karl-Anthony Towns will almost assuredly be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday, and Pete Gillen isn’t interested in offering much of a counter argument.
“Well, I think it’s going to be Karl-Anthony Towns,” the CBS Sports Network college basketball analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “He’s unbelievably skilled, runs the court, can shoot from the outside, he’s good inside, he blocks shots, runs, plays with a lot of energy – I think he’ll be the No. 1 pick. He can really get up and down, and I think he’s going to be even better in the pros than in college.”
Towns was phenomenal for Kentucky last season. In his final two games with the Wildcats – the Elite Eight against Notre Dame and the Final Four against Wisconsin – he shot 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) from the floor for 41 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.
Gillen feels the Minnesota-bound Towns is the best prospect in the draft.
“Yes, he is,” Gillen said. “He’s so versatile. He’s skilled, he can run, he can shot threes, he passes the ball well, plays with a relentless motor, he can guard defensively the pick-and-rolls – he can really do a lot of different things. I think he’s No. 1.”
Gillen thinks the Los Angeles Lakers will draft Duke prospect Jahlil Okafor at No. 2.
“He’ll be the best low-post player the Lakers have had since they traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat about 10, 11 years ago,” Gillen said. “I think they’re definitely going to take him.”
Gillen sees in Okafor a true big man who can play with his back to the basket. He does, however, need to improve his shooting – both from the high post and the foul line. Okafor shot just 51.0 percent from the line at Duke.
“He’s got to be able to make that 15-footer,” Gillen said, “and big guys get fouled a lot, so you got to make the free throws. I think that’s the biggest thing he’s got to do. And defensively, he’s got to move his feet laterally a little better, defend the pick-and-rolls. Big guys got to get out there and hedge and slow down the dribble a little bit. He doesn’t do that well.”
So Towns at 1, Okafor at 2. What about No. 3? The Philadelphia 76ers could go in any number of directions, from D’Angelo Russell to Kristaps Porzingis, a 19-year-old Latvian prospect you probably hadn’t heard of until a few weeks ago.
“He’s tremendous,” Gillen said. “He reminds me of a young Dirk Nowitzki. He’s tall and lean. He’s 7-foot, 210 pounds. He’s a tremendous shooter, very, very athletic, (and a) very talented, skilled big guy. But he’s so thin. 210 pounds? The big guys will back him in and knock him into the bleachers and just dunk on him. He’s not ready physically. But offensively, some of the scouts and gurus who study this really carefully think he could be the best player three or four years down the road in the draft.”