Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns is better than Kemba Walker

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 1: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 1: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Karl-Anthony Towns is a better player than new Boston Celtic Kemba Walker. He just is.

We shouldn’t have to be having this conversation, but here we are.

The annual release of ESPN’s Top 100 players this week has sparked plenty of debate, which, of course, is the point of the list. And while it’s hard to get too up in arms about the Wolves only having two players on the list, the order of the ranking can absolutely be quibbled with.

After Towns was ranked at No. 13 on Sports Illustrated’s player ranking and was one of four Wolves players to make the top 100. ESPN, however, only included two Wolves on their list, and Towns slid five spots to No. 18.

The players ahead of Towns on ESPN’s list who were behind him on SI’s? Here they are, with their SI rankings: Kemba Walker (No. 20), Luka Doncic (No. 30), Ben Simmons (No. 22), Rudy Gobert (No. 14), and C.J. McCollum (No. 32).

There were a few that switched the other way, perhaps most notably Jimmy Butler, who slipped from No. 11 on SI’s list to No. 21 on ESPN’s, but we have to shine a light on a couple of the most egregious.

To be clear, we’re splitting some hairs that are already subjective and, in many cases, simply preferential in nature. But yet there are arguments to made that, in a vacuum, some superstars are simply better players than other.

We’re going to focus on Kemba Walker today (sorry, Kemba), but any of the above-mentioned players are fair game for a comparison.

Towns is better than Kemba

Kemba Walker has long been an underrated and under-appreciated player, languishing away in a perennially mediocre organization.

He’s also not as good as Karl-Anthony Towns.

Indeed, both can be true.

It took Walker six years to become an All-Star, and he should have made the team a year earlier. Over the course of eight seasons in Charlotte, Kemba played in just 11 playoff games, all coming over the course of two seasons with his most recent postseason appearance coming back in 2016.

Walker’s career shooting splits (field goal/3-point/free throw percentages) don’t touch Towns’: .418/.357/.835 compared to .537/.392/.836. If you only want to take the four years since Towns has been in the league, go for it. Walker only bests Towns slightly at the free throw line with 85.1 percent.

One of the criteria given by Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN in his reasoning for Towns’ ranking was the Wolves’ team defense. Once you get past the absurdity of that argument, consider that while the Wolves as a team were No. 24 as a team in defensive rating last year. Charlotte? No. 22.

Individually, Walker was No. 82 out of 103 players in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus last season with a -1.45 mark. Towns was No. 52 out of 70 centers with a DRPM of 0.84. Overall, Towns’ total Real Plus-Minus was 3.86 while Walker’s was 2.76.

Want to talk Win Shares? It’s not particularly close, with Towns’ Win Shares per 48 minutes clocking in at .196 for his career, which is in the typical range of an All-Star. Walker’s is .113, and it’s been declining since a .165 mark back in 2015-16. That’s right: Towns’ career average is better than Walker’s peak.

We can agree that no single metric can capture the true value of a player on the court, but when all the numbers point to one conclusion, they’re likely on to something.

Oh, and if you want to go with the old school “leading his team to the playoffs” thing, Walker’s two playoff appearances in eight years isn’t exactly better than Towns’ one appearance in four years, or if you prefer, zero appearances in non-Jimmy Butler years.

To be clear: this is not intended to disparage the consistently underrated Walker; he’ll be great for the Celtics. But to suggest that Towns should be below him on any ranking of players is patently absurd.

3 Timberwolves player that should be traded. dark. Next

Luka Doncic, you’re next.