The 2015 NBA Draft is less than a week away, and there's little debate now as to who the best prospect is.
Kentucky Wildcats star Karl-Anthony Towns didn't open the 2014-15 college hoops season as the No. 1 prospect. In fact, Towns was barely ranked in the top five as late as February after a slow start to his freshman season. He scored less than 10 points in 13 of his first 20 games.
That's when Towns got hot, scoring double figures in nine of his next 12 games as he began shooting up draft boards. By March, it was Towns and Duke's Jahlil Okafor fighting for the top spot. By the end of the NCAA Tournament, most viewed Towns as the top prospect, and that's not changed in pre-draft workouts and interviews.
As ESPN's Chad Ford writes, Towns is in his own tier when it comes to grouping this year's NBA prospects.
Karl-Anthony Towns, F/C, Kentucky
Ahead of last year's draft, we had three players in this category: Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker. This category usually is reserved for guys who are surefire All-Stars/franchise players. Just three other players since we started this column in 2009 -- Griffin, Wall and Davis -- have been ranked in this slot. You have to be elite to get here.
This year was one of the toughest yet. Five players were nominated for Tier 1 by various teams. However, only one player was consistently mentioned by all of them: Towns. Although some teams don't see major separation between him and the players in Tier 2, others feel that there's a gap and that he's the only one in the draft who has the potential to be a top-10 player in the league.
As for Ford's next tier of prospects, he had Emmanuel Mudiay (Congo), Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia), D'Angelo Russell, (Ohio State) and Okafor in Tier 2. ford isn't the only one who thinks Towns is in a class of his own.
SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell writes how Towns is hands-down the best prospect in this year's class, and it's his defensive prowess that puts him ahead of Okafor and others.
What really separates Okafor and Towns is the other side of the ball. It's generally accepted that Towns is ahead of Okafor defensively, but the gap is much wider than it appears. Towns had 34 more blocks in 321 less minutes while posting a block rate (11.5) that lapped Okafor's (4.5) more than twice over. Unlike many 19-year-old prospects entering the league, Towns already has the strength to hold his own as an NBA center at 250 pounds. He might have played power forward at Kentucky, but his build and length make him a 5 in the new NBA.
Also, be sure to check out ESPN's Jordan Brenner use WARP and other advanced statistics to show why Towns should be the timberwolves' pick with the first selection in this year's draft.