Now that the Los Angeles Lakers have moved up to the second overall selection in next month’s NBA Draft, the focus now moves towards who the team will select. Though the team isn’t locked in on any particular player, it seems fair to suggest that the Lakers are likely going to take one of two big men, Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will pick first and while most experts have Towns rated as the best prospect this year, there are rumors that T-Wolves coach and GM Flip Saunders prefers Okafor. Regardless of who the Lakers are able to select, they are likely to have their man in the middle for the forseeable future.
Towns has an excellent all-around game, capable of scoring from the post as well as with a solid mid-range jumper. He shines on defense, having the length, mobility, and athleticism to corral guards on pick-and-rolls and protect the rim regularly, but doesn’t have the refined offensive game of Okafor.
Okafor is a more polished post-player, arguably the best in recent college basketball history. He has a wide array of post moves and counter moves and is accustomed to being the focal point of the offense. His defensive capability isn’t as great as Towns and he is less athletic, leading many to believe he has a lower ceiling, even if he is more NBA-ready right now.
Both prospects look as if they will be great NBA players for a long time, but which one do we really want to see with the Lakers next season? We asked our panel of experts which big man they would rather see wind up with the Lakers, Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor? This is what they had to say:
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Although Karl-Anthony Towns has all of the athletic tools and upside to become a dominant force in the league, I would like to see Jahlil Okafor become the second overall pick and become the next center of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Whatever shortcoming Okafor may have is worth it considering all that he can already do with the ball on offense. As the league has grown into a guard dominant league, big men have come into the league without developed post moves, something Okafor has.
In addition, he can take double teams and has the ability to pass out of them and find the open man. The Lakers as currently constructed would need more shooters to take advantage of that specific skill and can spend the rest of the off-season finding proper fits.
I will concede Towns is a better fit given his defensive upside especially when paired with Julius Randle. However, I believe Okafor is a talent the Lakers can continue to build around when Kobe Bryant is gone and retired. With big men being inappropriately seen as unimportant in today’s game and the lack of quality in the league, Okafor can become something other team’s will need to re-adjust their game plans around.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): A few months ago, I was convinced Jahlil Okafor was the better draft prospect when compared to Karl-Anthony Towns. Okafor is an offensive beast with incredible footwork for a player coming off his freshman year at Duke in which he led the Blue Devils to an NCAA championship.
After looking more into the comparison between the two players a bit more, Okafor came up short in a few areas. There’s no doubt in my mind Okafor will be a solid center in the NBA and potentially a star in the making, but his all-around game simply isn’t on the same level of Towns’ skill set.
Towns can get the job done at an extremely high level on both ends of the floor while also not being a liability at the free-throw line. The Kentucky star shoots an incredible 81.7 percent from the charity stripe, but the rest of his numbers from his freshman year with the Wildcats are much lower than Okafor’s.
Most people will look at the scoring average of the two centers. Okafor put up 17.5 points per game in comparison to Towns at 10.1. Okafor topped Towns in rebounding with 8.7 boards per contest over 6.6 from Karl-Anthony. Field-goal percentage is also higher at 68.8 to 56.3.
Although Okafor is the superior offensive player, Towns has a leg up defensively. Karl-Anthony averaged 2.2 blocks per game to Okafor’s 1.4 and can run the floor as well as stretch the defense with his shooting ability.
Personally, I don’t think the Lakers can go wrong with either player. Both are incredibly talented with a bright future ahead, but currently I’d take Towns over Okafor for being the better all-around player with more potential.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): First off let me say that I’d be happy if the Lakers end up with either Towns or Okafor. I think they’re both superb prospects and both of them have very high ceilings. That being said I hope the Lakers end up with Towns.
Towns has the potential to be a stellar two-way player. He averaged 2.2 blocks at Kentucky which is impressive if you take into account that Kentucky was loaded with front court players. Because of Kentucky’s depth, Towns only played 21 minutes per game. I also think Towns is more polished offensively than people give him credit for. In the low post he was virtually unstoppable in college. He scored on 66% of his shots near the rim.
He’s also very mobile for a big man and can run the floor well. Towns ranked 1st in the NCAA in scoring 1.86 points per possession in transition. He can also put the ball on the floor and drive from the three-point line. His elite mobility is what separates Towns from Okafor in my opinion.
If we were drafting 10-15 years ago then Okafor would probably be the better prospect for that era which favored a slower set-offense. However in today’s modern fast-paced high-scoring game, a mobile big man is a huge boon.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): I’ve gone back and forth on this subject for months. I truly believe both players will be top-flight players in the NBA and would be happy regardless of who the Lakers wind up with next month. However, I’n really starting to lean towards Jahlil Okafor recently, even though I understand why most consider Towns the superior prospect.
Towns is clearly superior on defense, there is no way around that, but this has led many to act as if Okafor is simply terrible on that end, when that is not the case. He has the tools to be an adequate defender and while he won’t be challenging for defensive player of the year, he will be able to hold his own.
Offensively, however, I can’t recall the last time I saw a college freshman possess the repertoire of a post moves that Okafor has. He has outstanding footwork and quickness in short spaces. He converted a ridiculous 79 percent of his shots at the rim and drew a foul on 18 percent of his post-up opportunities, truly outstanding numbers.
He is also used to being the focal point of the offense. He is excellent at establishing deep position because of his strength and is used to dealing with double teams, knowing how to pass or dribble out of them, and allowing for easy scoring opportunities for himself or teammates.
Choosing between the two players is really splitting hairs, but with so few dominant low-post scorers in today’s NBA, Okafor has a chance to really carve out his own lane in the NBA, and become the Lakers’ next great big man.
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