With the NBA Draft just two days away, all signs point to the Minnesota Timberwolves selecting Karl-Anthony Towns with the No. 1 overall pick, with Jahlil Okafor going No. 2 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
And that, Gary Parrish feels, would be a mistake.
Parrish likes Towns a lot, but if he’s picking No. 1, he’s taking Okafor.
“I just think he’s a franchise big who does things at the offensive end of the court that we haven’t seen 19-year-olds do literally in decades,” the CBS Sports college basketball insider said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He’s so special at that end. To me, this whole thing reminds me of a little bit like what we went through with last year’s NBA draft. Coming out of high school, who’s going to be the No. 1 pick? Andrew Wiggins. Everybody agreed. College basketball season starts. Who’s going to be the No. 1 pick? Andrew Wiggins. Everybody was on board. And then at some point within two weeks of the draft, folks started asking questions about should it be (Joel) Embiid? Should it be Jabari Parker? And so on and so forth. Ultimately, it still ended up being Wiggins and then he goes on and becomes the Rookie of the Year and it all makes sense.
“I just don’t know what happened to move so many people off of Okafor,” Parrish continued. “I like Karl-Anthony Towns. I think he’s going to be terrific. But you put me in charge of the Minnesota Timberwolves, I’m taking the guy for the past year-and-a-half basically everybody has assumed would be the No. 1 pick in this draft. And by the way, it’s not like Okafor went to college and was a bust. He was the best player on a national championship team.”
True, but the consensus is that Towns has more upside than Okafor. Does Parrish disagree?
“I don’t know that I disagree with it like I’m going to slam my fist down,” he said. “Maybe, but I don’t know how people conclude that that’s clear cut. I mean, I know that Karl has been tremendous in work outs and he is awesome in an interview setting. I sat down with him many, many times, and I always believed once he sits down with executives, he’s not going to come off like a 19-year-old. He is really, really sharp. So I see what everybody else sees. I guess I just go back to for years and years and years the idea has been if there’s a franchise center available, you don’t pass on him.”
And then Greg Oden happened. The Portland Trail Blazers infamously selected the oft-injured Ohio State product with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007. The No. 2 pick? Kevin Durant.
The NBA has also become a smaller, quicker, position-less game in recent years.
“I don’t know if those things or a combination of those things have moved folks away form Okafor, but I wouldn’t be moved away from Okafor,” Parrish said. “I would take him No. 1 and be very, very excited about it.”