Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
John Calipari Says Karl-Anthony Towns Wants to Go No. 1 to Minnesota
Karl-Anthony Towns (12) wants to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, John Calipari says. Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Karl-Anthony Towns is just about everybody’s choice as the No. 1 pick in next week’s NBA Draft.
And the way his former coach sees it, that would be just fine with the 7-footer from Piscataway, N.J.
“He likes Minnesota,” Kentucky’s John Calipari said Thursday on a conference call. “He said from Day 1, ‘I’ll go to Minnesota, let’s build a franchise.'”
Indeed, on the night of the Draft Lottery, Towns told me it would be a “blessing” to play for the Wolves.
“It would be a blessing and an honor to even have a chance to play for Minnesota and be able to have the chance to play for a great organization and learn from a great mentor like Kevin Garnett,” Towns said then.
Asked if he was ready for the cold weather in Minnesota, Towns cracked a broad smile and said, “Of course, I’m from Jersey. We’re used to snow, we’re used to cold weather.”
DraftExpress.com currently projects Towns at No. 1 followed by Duke’s Jahlil Okafor at No. 2 to the Lakers, although there has been speculation that the Lakers may prefer Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell instead.
Speaking again Friday morning on SportsCenter, Towns said he he had no preference between Minnesota or Los Angeles.
“No, not at all,” he told Stan Verrett. “The fact of the matter is that’s two great organizations and to be able to have a chance to be able to play for one of them is gonna be a blessing.”
He added: “You just don’t know. That’s the biggest thing right now as a draftee, you just don’t know where you’re going to be playing at. You don’t know where you’re going to be living at. You don’t know where you’re going to be striving for a championship at.”
Towns said he’s “still not over” winning a championship at Kentucky, which finished 38-1 after losing to Wisconsin in the national semifinals.
“I’m still not over it,” he said on ESPN. “I still live every day and I regret not being able to bring BBN a ninth championship.”
As we first reported, Towns is not expected to work out for teams, only to do interviews, and has been working out in L.A., with Don MacLean.
“There’s two things for Minnesota and Minnesota’s fans,” Calipari said. “First one is he is an unbelievable teammate. He’s the No. 1 pick, he played 24 minutes and was fine and cheered on Willie [Cauley-Stein] and did everything he could to get Willie going and was fine with Aaron taking all the shots. He was fine, he’s a great teammate. That’s one.
“The second thing is, he likes Minnesota. …Karl comes in, he is a great teammate but more importantly for the team and the fans up there, he’s fine. He said, ‘Let’s go Minnesota.'”
Calipari joked that he read Ryen Russillo’s report on Grantland.com quoting an NBA scout as saying the coach was the only one who could keep Towns under 20 points last season.
“You know the story about how Dean Smith was the only person to keep [Michael]Jordan under 20 points per game?” the scout said. “It’s the same thing with Towns. Who was the one guy to keep Towns down? John Calipari. That’s how talented he is. I think he’s no. 1; he is clearly no. 1.
“He’ll be a good defender. I’ll be shocked if he’s not. He’s a good shot-blocker, active, long. He’s another one, though, that allows easy catches. He’ll need to be taught some things. In the NBA, you can’t just allow catches without any resistance. They’ll just put you in the rim. He’ll learn that.”
Calipari said: “I’ve had good ones, but he’s right there with those guys that when you back, whoever picks him, they never get traded. And there’s only a few of those in the league and they never get traded.””
A second scout said he would take Towns over Okafor, which seems like the consensus now.
“He had an amazing year in that fishbowl [Kentucky]. Mentally, he seems to handle everything well,” the scout said. “In the beginning, Okafor was the presumed no. 1 guy, but with this talk about how the game is changing, with a big guy that can pick and roll and pick and pop, he [Towns] just seems like he has the edge in a couple of areas.
“Towns has a better face-up game from 15-17 feet, and he’s a little more versatile than Okafor, but Okafor is better in the post. Towns brings more skill — a good jump hook, a nice left hand. He has the edge defensively. If you look at his per-minute stats for blocks and rebounds, it’s incredible. He’s a rare commodity at center. I’d take him no. 1.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.