Publish date:

23. Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns is as sure of a superstar prospect as you'll find.

Towns made for one of our toughest rankings. It really is only a matter of time before he storms the ranks of the NBA elite. Towns is skilled and versatile in all the ways befitting a modern big and shows incredible defensive aptitude. His roll game is balanced by a smooth, pick-and-pop jumper. His post-ups are bolstered by his court vision and willingness to share the ball. His quick feet allow him to both scurry to stay in front of guards on the perimeter (Towns may be the ideal Warriors countermeasure) and recover mid-play to wall off the rim. Most of Towns’s discrete skills are advanced far beyond his years, and together they build off of one another to make him one of the most formidable players in the league. Take, for example, his jumper. Towns was so consistent with his shot last season (47.6% from mid-range) that his pump fake became a best-seller. From there, Towns had the footwork to blow by his man, the handle to drive confidently, the quickness to streak to the rim, and the touch to finish around it. Those compounding talents made Towns the most efficient isolation scorer in the league last season—an impossible puzzle that gave defenders little recourse. What is one to do when every jab step and shot fake conveys a legitimate threat? The only things keeping Towns from rocketing up our list are his defensive inexperience and body of work relative to the most accomplished players in the league. The players Towns is measuring up against in this ranking are proven playoff commodities, franchise centerpieces, All-NBA fixtures, and recurring All-Stars. All have produced and provided at incredible levels for their respective teams. Towns shares in that, albeit with the catch that his team ranked in the bottom third of the league in net rating. That will change—and soon. Yet for the moment, it seemed fair to slot Towns in a position that acknowledged all he can and will do while also confirming the sustained success of those ranked ahead of him. (Last year: Not ranked)

+ As sure of a superstar prospect as you’ll find
+ Balanced skill set makes him a perfect fit for almost any system
Still developing as a rebounder; gets pushed around a bit and held by veteran opponents
Learning the particulars of professional-level defense

SI Recommends