Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the first pick in the 2015 NBA draft on Thursday night at the Barclays Center.
In his lone season at Kentucky, Towns averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks despite playing just 21.1 minutes per game due to coach John Calipari's platoon system. He shot an impressive 81.3% from the free throw line as well.
Towns was one of seven members of the 2014-15 Kentucky roster who declared for the NBA draft following the team's Final Four appearance.
Towns played for the Dominican Republic's national team as a 16-year-old in 2012. The team fell just one position short of qualifying for the 2012 summer Olympic Games in London. He was also named the Gatorade National Player of the Year and a McDonald's All-American in his senior year at St. Joseph's High School in New Jersey.
The Timberwolves finished 16-66 last season.
Mannix's analysis: In a draft that could be chaotic, No. 1 was orderly. The Timberwolves evaluated Jahlil Okafor, but they locked in on Towns the last few weeks. And he should fit in nicely. In Towns, Minnesota gets a highly skilled power forward who can be the post complement to Andrew Wiggins. Towns has a developing face-up game and his superior free throw shooting guarantees he won’t be a victim of Hack-a-Anybody. Towns will get at least a year to learn the position under Kevin Garnett; his selection here gives Minnesota an enviable young core.
Strengths: Towns has the ideal size, strength and athleticism to be a star NBA center from the start. He plays with passion on both ends and moves up and down the court well for a player his size. He has the natural feel of an elite shot-blocker and is an above-average rebounder. His offensive game is still developing, but his footwork in the low post is advanced for his age and his free-throw shooting (81.3%) helps support the idea that he may be the second-best shooting big man (behind Frank Kaminsky) in this year’s draft.
Weaknesses: Fouling and physicality were his biggest problems in his one season at Kentucky. He was called for 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes, which negates some of the praise for his ability to block shots. Like many big men, he struggles when stuck near the perimeter, particularly on pick-and-rolls. He flashed an increased assertiveness during the NCAA tournament, but he will be asked to do more right away as a rookie. Is he ready to take on the added responsibility? Physically, another 10-15 pounds on his frame would help prevent him from being pushed around by NBA bigs.