Opening night in the NBA is rapidly approaching, what would be a better way to celebrate upcoming season than player comparisons? The answer is nothing. Ready for scorching hot takes and confusing advanced metrics? Me too.
Edit- I just saw after I published this that The Ringer did this 2 months ago, but comparatively they were more opinionated, this is more or less the facts with a couple opinions sprinkled in
In one corner we have the Silky Smooth Serbian Sultan(c), The Joker, Big Honey(what?), Nikola Jokic. In the other we have Special K, KAT, Karl Anthony Towns. Many would probably scoff at this comparison, Towns was the hottest commodity just a year ago, and while it may seem stupid I feel like his stock has gone down.
In 2017 KAT was picked as the number one player to start a franchise in the GM Survey, by a huge margin. Now just one year removed from that high praise, he has somehow fell off the list entirely, weird right? Well if you think about it, the fact that a year of probable incessant bullying from Jimmy Butler and getting ran into to ground by Thibs minutes wise may have been a serious detriment to Towns progress.
Jokic has been somewhat of a slower burn in terms of how he has been perceived by the league, only getting real recognition for his talent after showing out his rookie year and then bumping his stats the next season did many fans take notice.
Towns: Vlade Divac, Andrew Bogut,
Jokic: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol
Towns is clearly the more prolific scorer, averaging 21.6 for his career vs 14.9 for Jokic. Its worth noting that with the addition of Jimmy Butler last year, Towns scoring went down nearly 4 points per game, while Jokic improved his points per game by almost 2 points. Both players are efficient scorers. Towns shot 42.1 % from three point range last season with 3.5 assists per game. While Jokic shot 39.6 % on 3.7 attempts. Both of their averages are well above the league average of 36.2 % from 3. With each headed into their fourth season these numbers are just incredible.
In terms of play making, Jokic is miles ahead of Towns, averaging 6.1 asts per game compared to 2.4 for Towns. This is not to say Towns is not a good passer, but Jokic is an elite level passing big with superior court vision. My only caveat with Jokic’s passing is he averaged 2.8 turnovers last season, which is high, but given his useage rate its not terrible. This could be a product of a 22 year making mistakes and perhaps in the future he will get those numbers down.
Defensively they’re pretty even while KAT certainly has the tools to be great has left much to be desired and Jokic , who has gotten exposed on pick and rolls and lacks the lateral quickness and athleticism to develop into an elite rim protector. Jokic is not a terrible defender on the post and he is an excellent rebounder, which makes up for his defensive flaws. KAT came into the league already a great defender in college and for some reason has really not improved that aspect of his game at the same rate as the offensive side of the ball.
The advanced metrics certainly paint a ridiculous picture of just how special these two players are while both players shared a Wins Shared Total of over 10 last season. Towns had an insane 14 wins shared, while Jokic mustered 10.7. Jokic took the edge in box plus minus with 7.1, while Towns posted a 5.5 bpm. It’s incredible how much of an impact these players have had on their team’s success at such an early point in their careers.
Who Is More Valuable?
While last year it may have been insane to think anyone other Giannis may be as valuable as KAT but Jokic has truly eclipsed Towns as a more valuable centerpiece for his franchise. Jokic makes his teammates exponentially better with his amazing court vision and high basketball IQ. This is not to say that I believe Jokic is more talented per say, I believe they are even from a talent standpoint but Jokic’s play style benefits his team more in the win column and from a chemistry perspective as well. Though Jokic can be seen as somewhat of a defensive liability, it seems that the way of the traditional center is a thing of the past. If I had to bet on one of these players winning a ring it would be Jokic because of his exponential improvement through his first three years in the league. Both players, however, have limitless ceilings so who ends up on top is really anyone’s bet.