Karl Anthony Towns Scouting Report

Karl Anthony Towns

6’11 250

NBA Position: Center

TS% eFG% % FG Rim FG% at Rim DREB 40 Min OREB 40 Min BLK 40 Min FT% FTA 40 Min Steal % Assist 40 Min USG PER
.627 56.7 42.9 75.2 8.4 4.4 4.3 81.7 6.6 1.3 2.2 23.6 31.2

*Stats provided for by synergysports.com, sports-reference.com, draftexpress.com and hoop-math.com

Strengths:

  • Prototype Size and Length (9’5 Standing Reach, 7’3 Wingspan) for an NBA Center
  • Very Mobile: Can Beat Most Bigs Down the Floor
  • Elite Court Awareness/Feel for the Game and Passing Ability for a Big Man from Both the High Post and Out of Double Teams on the Low Block
  • Can Initiate Fast-Break With Outlet Passing
  • Utilizes Length With Arm Extension to High Point Rebounds and Locates/Boxes Out Defenders Consistently
  • Excellent Offensive and Defensive Rebounder
  • Diverse Offensive Skill-Set/Skilled Perimeter Player: Can Handle the Ball and Distribute in Half Court or in Transition
  • Deadly in Triple Threat From the Middle of the Court
  • Quick Release on His Shot with Good Mechanics: Excellent Free Throw Shooter
  • NBA Three Point Shooting Potential
  • Soft Hands to Snare Rebounds and Catch Entry Passes in Traffic
  • Can Finish in the Post Over Either Shoulder with Either Hand Utilizing Length
  • Displays Soft Touch Finishing Around the Basket
  • Instinctive Defender Who Can Show Hard on Pick and Rolls and Recover to His Man
  • Combination of Timing and Length as a Shot Blocker Protecting the Rim
  • Intangibles: Engaging and Intelligent Individual Off the Court and Demonstrative On-Court Effort

Towns has the size and length to defend his ultimate NBA position, NBA centers. He shows great mobility for a player his size, enabling him to beat most big men down the floor in transition, as well as rotate assignments in pick and roll recovery.

Towns’ greatest trait is his feel for the game and court sense, especially as a passer. Big men who can read defenses and make an assortment of passes, whether it be out of double teams in the post or at the high post off of pocket passes in pick and rolls, are an invaluable commodity in the NBA today. Towns projects to be the best player to fulfill this description in the draft as the draft’s best passing big man. Not only is Towns an instinctive passer, but he has the size and incredible length to survey defenses in seeing over his opponent, as well as the know-how to rebound and immediately fire precise outlet passes to initiate the break. He also uses his aforementioned arm length to high point rebounds on both ends, and is very adept at identifying players to box out, even in situations where his own man is not in rebounding proximity.

Towns is also a rarity in that he is a skilled perimeter player for a center. He can handle the ball in transition and distribute the ball off the dribble in traffic. He can also dribble and distribute in the half-court, possessing potential as a face-up attacker on less mobile NBA defenders and is certainly capable of handling the ball enough to initiate dribble handoffs in the NBA. While he has yet to really have the opportunity to showcase it at Kentucky, Towns has floor-spacing potential as a shooter stretching as far out as the three-point line, He has displayed solid mechanics, a quick release and a soft touch, and given his history making threes on the international level it is likely Towns with more experience becomes a threat to shoot from anywhere on the court.  His free throw shooting (81.7%) presents a very solid depiction of Towns’ potential as a shooter.

Towns has been used predominately at Kentucky offensively as a post-up player (as demonstrated by the following positional stats):

Play Type Freq. PPP Rank Rating FG% aFG% TO% %FT
Post Up 37.7 .874 69% Very Good 49.4 17.6 16
Off Reb 18.7 1.373 92% Excellent 60.9 3.4 28.8
Cut 19 1.267 79% Very Good 72.5 18.3 21.7
Transition 6.3 1.85 100% Excellent 80 0 45
Iso 1.9 .677 33.3
P&R Man 4.7 .733 22% Below Average 41.7 13.3 6.7
Spot Up 5.4 .941 60% Good 41.2 47.1

He has soft hands to catch entry passes, either in traffic or when being fronted. Once catching the pass Towns can finish with either hand over either shoulder, already showing advanced comfort with his left hand. Towns’ post move acumen is largely attributed to his size and length, as most defenders do not have the measurables to challenge Towns’ high point release. Towns is not an explosive finisher at the rim, but is still very effective as he relies on a soft release, usually by way of a hook shot.

As a defender, Towns has underrated instincts, showing good discipline keeping track of his man while making rotations. Often times Kentucky has Cauley-Stein matched up against the perimeter big man for the opponent, as Cauley-Stein is the best and most mobile big man defender in the draft (and in years), but Towns has displayed solid instincts and movement when placed in perimeter situations. He has demonstrated the ability to show hard to stop penetration where his length acts as a deterrent, and then recover to his man diving to the rim. Kentucky also switches a good amount in recovery situations between Towns and Cauley-Stein, and Towns does a good job communicating to switch onto the proper assignment. Towns can cover ground quickly in straight lines as a runner and back-peddler, which aids his ability to contain and bail back to his man.

Towns’ second most alluring asset behind his court sense is his rim protection. While not an explosive athlete or immediate jumper, Towns demonstrates good timing and really utilizes every inch of his arm length when challenging shots at the rim. Towns’ ability to read a play and rotate over at the precise moment from the weak side is advanced for his age. His size and length simply allow how to make plays and deter shots in ways most other big men can’t, resulting in very promising positional defensive statistics:

Play Type Freq. PPP Rank Rating FG% %TO %FT
Spot Up 26.8% 1.033 28% Below Av 37 (50adj) 0 10
Iso 18.8% .286 98% Excellent 13.3 19 14.3
Post Up 36.6% .463 95% Excellent 13.6 17.1 29.3

Lastly, as noted in the Jahlil Okafor scouting report, analyzing player intangibles is a dicey proposition from the outside, but from everything I’ve seen from Towns he has that “it” factor. He’s incredibly intelligent and well spoken, carrying himself with a mature aura. He projects as a very coachable player mentally capable of picking up complex NBA schemes.  Furthermore, Towns has a demonstrative on-court personality and effort level, and while a part of his energy level can be attributed to Kentucky’s small spurt platoon rotation system, Towns’ noticeable intensity figures to carry over.

Weaknesses:

  • Not an Explosive Athlete or Sudden Jumper
  • Over-Reliant on His Length at Times Defensively: Leads to High Foul Rate and Biting on Pump Fakes
  • Top Heavy Frame: Needs to Add Both Upper and Lower Body Strength to Defend NBA Centers in the Post
  • Lower Body Strength/Girth: Gets Pushed Around and Sealed Off on the Glass and Moved in the Post
  • Gets Pushed Off His Spots in the Post
  • Raw Footwork in the Post
  • Doesn’t Have Elite Lateral Agility Sliding Defensively in Space to Contain Guards Especially in Pick and Roll

Towns has made some freakish athletic plays in out of game setups, such as dunking from the free throw line, but that athleticism does not fully translate to in-game play. Towns is a solid athlete but is not especially explosive or a sudden jumper, which inhibits his ability to explosively finish at the rim in the NBA over shot-blocking. Towns definitely jumps better off of a running start, and could thus be a plus finisher in transition, but he still could struggle some in the NBA as a dive man finishing explosively in traffic.

While Towns’ length is one of his best attributes, at times he is over-reliant on it, often resulting in fouls. Towns knows he can overcompensate for not doing little things at times such as shuffling his feet defensively with his wingspan, and thus has a tendency to reach instead of doing the trench-work. The same applies to biting on shot-fakes consistently with the knowledge he can recover enough to utilize his length to challenge shots. This is definitely a fixable issue that more experience and coaching can rectify.

In terms of physical build, Towns has somewhat of an awkward frame, where his legs appear to be much longer than his torso. As a result, Towns does not possess plus lower body strength, and thus cannot leverage position against stronger players either in the post or as a rebounder (Towns dwarfs most of his opponents, who are akin to wings in the NBA, thus these issues do not surface on a game by game basis). This mostly hurts Towns as a rebounder because he can easily be sealed off at times by stronger players, whereas in the post his length can overcompensate some. At this juncture Towns does not have the upper body nor lower body strength to defend NBA centers in the post. As he acquires more strength, he might need to play power forward in the interim until he has the physical profile to defend against the more physically imposing center position, but he ultimately projects as a center (not a stretch 4) due to his lateral mobility limitations.

As a post player, Towns is still raw in his footwork and does not have a lot of counter moves. He mostly takes hook shots at this juncture. Some of this is due to Towns’ inability to carve out space with his body. He consistently gets pushed off his spots and out of the paint on the block, which limits his post-up options. He’s been relegated to pseudo-fade away hooks in the post at times because of his inability to leverage position against stronger players.

While Towns is a mobile big in straight lines, he is merely passable moving laterally in space defensively. This projects to hinder him some as a pick and roll defender in the league containing faster guards off the dribble from turning the corner.   His wingspan and instinctiveness will help him offset his average lateral agility, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever be significant plus as a pick and roll defender.

System Fit:

Offense: Motion Offense as a Pick and Pop Center

As referenced above, Towns has almost solely utilized on Kentucky as a post up player, some of which can be attributed to spacing and the fact Cauley-Stein is not a skilled post up player. However, Towns’ ideal role in the NBA is not as a post up player, and certainly not initially due to his lack of strength. Towns’ optimal role offensively is a role he can utilize his expert passing, court sense, and perimeter talents in a triple threat position from the center of the court foul-line extended. A conglomeration of the above points leads to an Al Horford type role on the Hawks as a pick and pop center who can either shoot off the pocket pass, diagnose the defense to find open teammates or attack less mobile centers off the dribble in a face up setting. Towns can still be used as a post up player situationally in clear mismatches, but his greatest potential impact lies in a more pick and roll or Horns type offensive set where he has the ball at some point at the high post, elbow or center of the floor and beats defenses with his passing. Given his intelligence, a motion passing based read and reaction scheme where everyone on the floor is a threat to shoot suits Towns best, especially as he acquires more experience.

Defense: Conservative Pick and Roll Zone Scheme

Towns will undoubtedly be asked to hedge, show and even blitz pick and rolls often in his career because of his length and mobility, but he projects best in a more conservative pick and roll zoning scheme. Towns’ average lateral agility will hinder his ability to succeed in more aggressive schemes to an extent.  He does not need to be positioned as far back as Okafor dropping back, but placing him either slightly behind the screen or at the level of the screen will allow Towns to better utilize angles to contain penetration and position him closer to the rim to utilize his length. Again, he’s certainly more mobile than an Okafor-type, so he doesn’t have to take significantly deep drops, but shallow zoning drops will likely serve his abilities best, especially initially.

Team Fit: Scheme Versatile: Atlanta Hawks (Motion) Scheme Fit, Los Angeles Lakers Personnel Fit

From a scheme perspective, Towns is a fit in virtually any system, but his skill-set is best utilized eventually in Atlanta’s read and react pass-first motion offense. In a literal sense, it is unknown if Millsap, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, will return (though incredibly likely), rendering there a potential need in Atlanta’s frontcourt. The Hawks have the right to swap picks with the Brooklyn Nets unconditionally this year, but will need incredible lottery luck if the Nets don’t make the playoffs to get in Towns’ range. This scenario is conceivable however, and the fit is undeniable, even if Millsap returns.

From strictly a personnel fit and development perspective, the potential pairing of Towns and Randle on the Lakers presents an enticing proposition. Towns and Randle could offer a Gasol/ZBO lite versatile two-way inside-out threat offensively, while Towns could cover for Randle’s deficiencies protecting the rim. It’s difficult to imagine a better fit next to Randle than Towns on both ends of the floor, and out of the bottom 5 teams in the league right now, this pairing poses the greatest upside.

Player Comparison: Bigger & Better Shot-Blocking but Less Laterally Mobile Al Horford

Again, there is no such thing as a precise college to NBA player comparison; hence the modifiers, but Towns looks like a bigger Al Horford. Horford is more compactly built with superior lateral mobility with Towns the better rim protector, but both have similar basketball IQ, passing ability, face-up game, floor-spacing potential and mental makeup.

Potential: All-Star

Towns projects as terrific fit in the NBA’s pace and space era as a skilled stretch 5 who can shoot threes and defend the rim, making him one of the finite players with that build in the league. To be a truly impactful big man in today’s NBA you have to be able to stretch the floor or defend the rim. Towns can do both, and adds phenomenal passing and skill. He has a higher ceiling than Okafor with a more diverse, complete game, and fits much better in the current day NBA game.  He’s the #1 player on my board and has been so since November.  Players like Towns simply don’t come around often.

 

Advertisements