Should the Suns trade the First Pick for Karl Anthony-Towns?

A first overall pick who has the ability to pass on the low block, who can stretch the floor, and who can play a good low post game, but who needs some (a lot of) work on defense has recently said he’s unsatisfied with his situation in Minnesota and wants to be somewhere else. This player also happened to go to college with Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, and his name is Karl-Anthony Towns.

The obvious issue for Towns is that he isn’t being used enough. If you’re KAT, you watched your usage percentage dip this season from 27.4% to 22.9% and watched a few of your more important stats dip with it. Tom Thibodeau has his “guys” come from his Chicago days and you see your playing time eaten up by Taj Gibson and Gorgui Dieng. Thibodeau has been running the legs off guys and seemingly stopping their NBA careers short by overplaying them, so yeah, you’re gonna want out, and you’re gonna openly talk about it.

Now, obviously, Towns isn’t going to be dealt by Minnesota for anything less than the #1 overall pick if you’re Phoenix. The pieces you would prefer to give away (lower picks, Warren, Chriss, Bender) can’t make this trade work, and the pieces you would prefer to keep (Jackson, Booker, #1 pick) are the ones Minnesota would look for. Now, Towns is a former #1 pick and won Rookie of the Year unanimously in 2016. That’s incredibly impressive, and what’s more impressive is that he’s seemingly developed his game and gotten better since his rookie campaign, despite his numbers not reflecting it this year. As previously mentioned, a dip in usage will cause a dip in production.

I, personally, really like KAT. I think Booker likes him too, if Twitter is any indication. I also really like DeAndre Ayton but not as much as KAT, and (as of recently), do not really like Luka Dončić. Let’s flesh out all these opinions.

Why don’t I like Dončić at #1? There’s a few reasons. First of all, he said he wasn’t even set on coming to the NBA, and recently received the Euroleague MVP. If he’s not sold on the team, then don’t even bother coming here. Pass. No thank you. Second of all, he doesn’t have an explosive first step. Strength alone might get you by in the Euroleague, but not having that quickness will KILL a guard like that in the NBA. Third of all, Arizona sports radio personality John “Gambo” Gambadoro has recently brought up a potential “attitude” problem of Dončić’s.

“Yeah. Shooting. Immaturity. Funny how we cut so much slack to Dončić for pouting but want to ship out another 19 year old for the same reason”, of course, referring to Marquese Chriss. I think Dončić is high-risk, high-reward, but not the kind of risk a rebuilding team should take at #1.

Why do I like KAT more than Ayton? I believe that KAT is basically Ayton’s ceiling. Any fan would HOPE that Ayton would be as good as Towns. Every scout says Ayton’s defensive instincts aren’t great, and his quickness on that side of the ball definitely needs some work. Ayton would also be more effective with a pass-first point guard, something the Suns really don’t have right now unless Elfrid Payton and his new haircut come back next season, or if they draft a guard at #16. KAT doesn’t need that past-first guy, as he can create his own opportunities as well as create opportunities for others with his passing and good offensive game sense. He’s a proven NBA guy, and Ayton isn’t (yet). That being said, I certainly wouldn’t mind DeAndre Ayton on my team. I really wouldn’t complain. If the Suns don’t trade the pick, I would not be upset. I like Ayton, just not as much as KAT.

In conclusion, I think the Suns should trade the pick for KAT. Booker wants him, and I like that man being happy. But, if Ayton gets his wish to play in Phoenix, more power to him. I enjoy his game too, and him and Booker would be something else on the offensive end (and ONLY on the offensive end). The lesson to be learned here is: no Dončić. Please. Just a big man at #1. Find a Collin Sexton (if he drops somehow) or an Aaron Holiday at 16 and address that need for a ball-handler, but just stick with a sure thing at #1, whether it be KAT or Ayton. Don’t screw this up. I’m begging you. I need a 30 win season very badly.

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Shaq and Kobe 2.0

On the afternoon of March 31st, DeAndre Ayton went on CBS Sports radio. When asked where he’d like to end up in the NBA, he said “Honestly, I could see myself in Phoenix. I could see a little Shaq and Kobe 2.0.”

Not only is that like the best thing you could say to any Suns fan right now, but it’s also an extremely bold statement that allows me to be able to say Devin Booker is the next Kobe without feeling alone.

Because of how much I love this quote from Ayton, I decided to have a little fun. I’m here to compare Ayton’s freshman numbers at U of A and Shaq’s at LSU, and then Booker and Kobe’s age 20-21 numbers.

Shaq vs Ayton

Shaq: 13.9 PPG, 3.6 BPG, 12 REB, 0 3PA, 57.3 FG%

Shaq is the perfect center for that era of basketball (obviously). Young, athletic, strong, back to the basket guy, productive on offense, dominant on defense at 7’1”. Shaq is Shaq. You all know how amazing he was, especially when he was young and mobile. How does Ayton stack up?

Ayton: 20.1 PPG, 1.9 BPG, 11.6 REB, 61.2 FG%, 34.3 3PT%

A few interesting differences to point out: Shaq attempted zero 3s his freshman year, and Ayton attempted 35 (and made 12). Ayton had 1.0 3PA per game. The field goal percentage is higher, despite his tendency to shoot from further out than Shaq. He’s not as dominant on defense, but still manages to get almost two blocks in a normal game. The rebounding matches up pretty well. These two players are strangely comparable (I’m so excited oh my goodness PLEASE let Phoenix get the #1 pick).

Decision: Comparable

 

Kobe vs Booker

This one is tougher. Kobe entered the league out of high school, and Booker took a pit stop at Kentucky. But, how did Kobe fare at Booker’s current age?

Kobe (Age 20-21): 21.4 PPG, 5.9 REB, 4.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 46.7 FG%, 29.8 3P% over 116 games played* (1998-1999 was a 50-game lockout season)

Over the course of the 1998-99 to 1999-2000 seasons, Kobe was very Kobe. He was a high flyer with a solid field goal percentage and played closer to the rim than he did later in his career. He also had a really cool afro and basically broke every defense in the league, so there’s that. Early career Kobe is so fun. How, if at all, does Devin stand up?

Booker (age 20-21): 23.3 PPG, 3.7 REB, 3.9 AST, .9 SPG, .3 BPG, 42.7 FG%, 37.3 3P% over 132 games played

Oh. Oh wow. That’s interesting. Obviously, the athleticism and defense go to Kobe, that’s not a question (the only two good defenders from this generation of Kentucky players are Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo), but for volume scoring, look to Booker. He shoots a LOT, but it also goes in a lot apparently, as their field goal percentages are comparable. Devin has averaged 6.0 3PA over the last two seasons, while Kobe only tried 2.1 3s per game in those early seasons. Call it a sign of the times, I suppose. Kobe attempted 14.8 2s per game to Booker’s 12.8, but both players took a lot of shots and a lot of them have gone in.

Decision: Comparable (On Offense)

It’s fun to muse about these things when your team just picked up its 20th win in 79 tries. It’s hard not to look ahead after the abysmal season the Suns have had, so hopefully 2019 in Phoenix looks more like 1996 Los Angeles.