After proving he can shoulder the load for a franchise, where exactly should Karl-Anthony Towns be drafted this fantasy season?
Fantasy basketball isn’t quite as popular in public perception as fantasy football, but it is still a very profitable industry nonetheless.
The concepts of fantasy basketball are more like that of fantasy baseball, there are rotisserie settings and head to head settings where you have to have more points in a statistical category (points, rebounds, assists, etc.) than your opponent. There are also leagues that give a certain point value for points, rebounds, assists, blocks, etc, and the person with the highest point total at the end of the week (or however long the matchup runs for) wins.
Just like any other fantasy league you compete in, you need to have a strategy. It helps to know players, yes, but understanding the nuances of the fantasy sports side of the NBA will ultimately be the difference maker between a successful season and one that you stop checking on midway through the season.
So where do we start? Why not start with arguably the best player on the Timberwolves and arguably the best center in all of the NBA, Karl-Anthony Towns. Getting players who average a double-double is crucial, and getting one who gets his plenty of statistics in other categories makes KAT the one of the top picks in fantasy drafts in 2017-2018.
Towns was top 20 in blocks last season, a category that doesn’t come easy for many fantasy teams. Many of the shot blockers at the top of the charts are awful when it comes to free throw percentage, another category that is often counted toward your weekly or yearly point totals. Hassan Whiteside (ranked fourth in blocks last season) will be one of the most coveted centers in the league as will DeAndre Jordan (ranked 7th), but both shot under 63 percent from the free throw line, with Jordan shooting an atrocious .482%. Even Rudy Gobert, one of the best defensive players in all of the league and the top shot blocker last season, shot a meager .653%.
Now take a look at Towns and it’s incredible to think he is a center, as he shot 83.2 percentf rom the charity stripe during the 2016-2017 season. Talking to some of those that claim to be knowledgeable when it comes to fantasy hoops will tell you to punt, or forget about, free throw percentage and focus on other categories. Why do that when there are centers available, such as Towns, although he is clearly an outlier, who can actually post a solid percentage from the line while still contributing in the categories you need to win (ala Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, and Serge Ibaka)?
Free throw percentage is just one aspect of Towns’ game that sets him apart from the rest of the first round picks and centers especially. According to ESPN’s 2018 projections and rankings, Towns sits at number 11. Of the 10 players ranked ahead of KAT, just five averaged a double-double: James Harden (29.1 PPG, 11.2 APG), Russell Westbrook (31.6 PPG, 10.4 APG, 10.7 RPG), John Wall (23.1 PPG, 10.7 APG), DeMarcus Cousins (27 PPG, 11 RPG), and Anthony Davis (28 PPG, 11.8 RPG). Meanwhile, Towns averaged 25.1 PPG and 12.3 RPG, his secondary part of the dub-dub (rebounds) outperforming any of the other top 10 players’ secondary stat.
Among the players ranked in the top ten, just four qualified as a power forward or a center. Only one of those three was an actual center (Cousins). Among the four that could be considered bigs, Cousins (1.8) and LeBron James (1.7) had more three-pointers made per game than Towns (1.2). Towns also shared the same BPG average as Cousins, averaging 1.3 blocks per contest.
Not only does Towns offer a high free throw percentage, rebound rate, and block average, he can also shoot the three ball, something the modern day big is slowly being required to do. KAT averaged a single three-pointer made per contest, but that single three ranked him seventh among all centers in the NBA. Again, Cousins was the only player of the other top six that had more points and assists per contest, while Towns led in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and rebounds. It’s clear Cousins and Towns are the preferred top picks if you choose to approach your frontcourt first.
If you are someone that likes to address your backcourt and draft the likes of Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, by all means, go ahead and do so. You can’t really go wrong with either one of those three players, but what if you aren’t picking inside the top five and you are looking at selecting a player to bolster your post game? For all the reasons listed above, Towns should be your number one selection.
Cousins and Davis make strong cases to also be considered among the first bigs taken off the board, but they are both on the same team now and still have to figure out how to mesh together. If you think their absence totals from last season will continue at the same torrid pace, you are sorely mistaken. Sure, their stats may come close to what they were last season, but in the early stages of 2017-2018, look for those numbers to slightly dip as both want to be “the man” in the low block where often times there can only be one alpha.
Back to Towns. He has stable counterparts in the low block, but nobody that will outshine him. After asserting his dominance on the court and taking the reigns as the team leader last season, Towns is on a mission to get the Timberwolves to a winning record. It can’t be expressed enough how much KAT loves to win and how used to winning the kid is. Last season was an adjustment for Towns, but now with the new roster in tow, look for Karl-Anthony Town’s name to be amongst the front-runners for NBA and be one of the top fantasy assets come season’s end.