The Big Three: Towns, Okafor, Porzingis

NBA rookies are off to a tremendous start.

The battle for NBA Rookie of the Year is a fight between the league’s new big men. Karl-Anthony Towns, 7-0, is showing that he already is one of the best big men in the league. Jahlil Okafor, 6-11, is offensively dominant, and Kristaps Porzingis, 7-3, is outperforming expectations.

Rookies Points Rebounds Blocks FG %
Karl-Anthony Towns 15.3 9.8 2.4 .518
Jahlil Okafor 18.4 8.0 1.7 .480
Kristaps Porzingis 13.7 9.1 1.5 .423

Kristaps Porzingis has returned excitement and hype to the New York Knicks. The attention he is getting is Linsanity all over again, and Porzingis is helping the Knicks transition from horrendous to mediocre. Is the attention justified?  Someone who knows a little bit about going from an unknown European to a NBA star is Dirk Nowitzki. When asked about Porzingis, he stated:

He is for real,” Nowitzki told ESPN. “He is long. He is athletic. He is tough. He’s got a touch. He can put it on the floor.”

Nowitzki also stated that the sky is the limit for Porzingis. This is very high praise for a player who has been in the NBA three weeks, but this praise comes from a star who has a very similar physical and ethnical background as Porzingis.

Dirk never wowed you with his athleticism, but it was his touch and lengthiness that has made him succeed for over 17 seasons. Porzingis is the same way. He is long and rebounds with his length, yet still has the touch and range to score outside the paint. It will be a surprise to all who booed him on draft night for Porzingis to win the honor of ROY, but his play in the early season has fans chanting his name.

Jahlil Okafor is a legitimate ROY contender. His play has been overshadowed by the 76ers’ poor showings and failure to win a single game. He leads the 76ers and  all rookies in scoring. He has shown brilliant footwork in the post for his size. The issues with Okafor come from his lack of  defense and rebounds.

There are questions about Okafor’s fit on the 76ers. Although he is putting up solid numbers offensively, the 76ers have an offensive rating of 100 with Okafor off the court compared to 89.9 when he is on court. It could be a reason why 76ers head coach Brett Brown has been discussing moving Okafor to the power forward position and putting Nerlens Noel at center.

Porzingis and Okafor have been very good, but the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, Karl-Anthony Towns, has been the bigger star.  Only 5 times in the last 15 seasons has the number one pick won Rookie The Year award (LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins).  The type of offensive and defensive success Karl-Anthony Towns is having is consistent with  stardom.

Not even close to being fully developed, Towns is already a walking double-double through his first 12 games. He is just the fifth player in NBA history to compile six or more double-doubles in his first 10 career games. The first four being Shaquille O’Neal, Dikembe Mutombo, David Robinson, and Chris Webber. Towns is also the second-youngest player to record a 20-point, 10-rebound, 5-block performance in the last 30 years. He is shooting a 90.2 FT% and has more blocks this season then he has turnovers. His numbers put him 6th in rebounds per game and also 6th in blocks per game.

This rookie class has already stamped their mark on  the league. No one expected Porzingis and Towns to effectively contribute so quickly.  Many thought they were drafted because of their booming potential and that they would need time to adjust, yet now they are already making an impact.

By the end of the season, Karl-Anthony Towns should be holding up the ROY award. He is the most well-rounded player of the rookies, a scorer and also a defensive anchor. His overall skill set, maturity, and NBA readiness are of a higher value than the rest of the rookie class. It will lead him to a successful rookie year, an award, and a bright future.

photo via llananba