Today Karl-Anthony Towns said he believes he can be the best player in the NBA, but what if a certain unibrowed fellow alum beats him to the chase?
We love Karlito. We also brow down to say our nightly prayers before bed. Both are undying, forever kinds of love, but, deep down, most of us believe that one will be better than the other.
A year ago, there was no question that Anthony Davis would be the next big thing, but after an injury-riddled season where his numbers plateaued, Kentucky’s favorite Dominican has taken Davis’ place.
From a GM’s standpoint, Towns is more valuable because he’s got three more years of a rookie contract to play through, while Davis has just one. But while contract talk is important, it’s boring–let’s focus on potential purely as it relates to their performance on the hardwood. I’ll do my darndest to convince you of both players’ future greatness.
Anthony Davis will be better:
- 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1.9 assists per game.
This is the kind of stat line that Anthony Davis can put up with a torn labrum (a piece of cartilage and a bum kneecap (tendinosis, to be exact). Compare that to Towns, who scored significantly fewer points, while coming up even with Davis in every other category. Towns was a healthy
kid man this season, and Davis wasn’t even close.
- 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 2 assists
And, of course, the art of defense can’t just be explained by comparing two players’ average block numbers. As a big man, defense is about rim protection (contesting shots as well as blocking them), guarding the pick-and-roll, and being able to switch onto wings and guards when necessary. Davis did all these things better than Towns, and, like I said, we now know that he did it with a knee that required surgery, and a shoulder that required 3-4 months rest.
Below are a couple shot maps that show the players’ field goal percentage when they’re being guarded by Davis and Towns from various places on the floor. More and larger hexagonal tiles represent more shot attempts.
Davis has the significant upperhand in seven of the ten shot map areas (and yes, the 2% difference in the low paint is significant because they defend so many shots from there). The size and quantity of the tiles on the perimeter is especially telling, as it’s apparent that Davis more often switches onto wings and guards who shoot threes–when he does switch, his spider-like limb-to-body ratio helps him get a hand in a shooter’s face more effectively than Towns. The two’s overall field-goal percentage against tells the same story, as Town relented 47.6% while Davis allowed just 43.2%. The year before, when he was healthier, he only gave up 39.8%.
Obviously, Towns was just a rookie last year, and he progressed as the season went on, but Davis has an explosiveness to him and a wingspan advantage that can’t be taught. Towns isn’t particularly lacking in those areas, but Davis has the upper hand. Assuming both stay relatively healthy, it’s safe to say that Davis will be the better defender.
And he’s also shown that he can score in bunches, lead his team to a playoff appearance (on a roster that was no good), and challenge for a regular season MVP award–he was 4th in the 2014-15 voting.
Before this past season, Anthony’s game was growing exponentially, and once he gains full strength, there’s no reason to doubt that it will continue to do so.
Karl-Anthony Towns will be better
Game so nice they named him twice. As reigning rookie of the year, Karl-Anthony Towns might be the most universally liked NBA player–his team hasn’t stepped on any fanbases’ toes yet, and he plays with an intuitive smoothness that almost anyone can appreciate. Of course, big stars like Lebron, Steph and KD are more popular, but at this point in his career, who would even consider not liking Towns?
You could sum up the way the NBA is evolving in a few paragraphs, but the easiest way to get the picture is to watch Towns (and, obviously, Steph Curry) play. He can do everything. He’s and confident and obsessed with getting better and the rest of the NBA should be shaking in their boots.
I’d give you a whole spiel about how KAT will usher in a new, offensively well-rounded era in the history of the NBA big man, but I’ll just let some really smart people (Nate Silver and the fivethirtyeight.com team) give you the numbers.
Wins above replacement is a metric that estimates how many wins a player generates for his team over the course of the season. Here are Towns/Davis’s projections:
The dude has a more diverse array of offensive weapons than the U.S. Air Force, Army, and National Guard combined (not sure about the Navy, boats are mysterious). He passes extremely well, he stretches the floor with a 34% 3-pointer, he’s one of the best mid-range shooters in the league, and he can bang down low with the best of them, despite not having fully grown into his body.
Don’t even get me started on firepower
As a fanbase, the #BBN is fortunate enough to have this debate, but who do you think has a better shot at being the NBA’s next best player?