We’ve almost hit the All-Star break and rookies throughout the NBA have had their opportunities to make a statement. Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks are the two biggest candidates for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award thus far. Both were selected in the top four picks of the draft last June.
Daily Campus Sports' Chris Hanna and Shahan Kamal debate whom the Rookie of the Year award should go.
Shahan Kamal: In my opinion, Karl-Anthony Towns is the clear favorite for the award. Back when the Timberwolves selected him with the first pick, the general consensus was that he was the most “NBA-ready” prospect in the draft.
Towns has, thus far, won every Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award, and it hasn’t been close. He leads all rookies in double-doubles (19), rebounding (9.5), and is second in scoring (15.5) and blocks (1.7) per game. Towns is likely to sweep the Rookie of the Month Awards for the rest of the season, and it’s hard to argue against anyone who wins every single possible Rookie of the Month Award.
Chris Hanna: This year's Rookie of the Year Award definitely seems to be a two-horse race between the Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns and the Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis. In my opinion, however, Porzingis is a lock to win the award.
Despite the fact that Towns is having an incredible season in his own right, I would say the hype around him is significantly less, especially coming from the Minnesota market. The hype around Kristaps Porzingis and his unbelievable play has changed the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden. Knicks fans are rejoicing at the partnership of Carmelo Anthony and the Latvian 7-footer, which gives hope to a city that has been missing good basketball for quite some time.
The man the people call Porzingod is averaging roughly 14 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, and two assists a game, which are fantastic numbers in approximately 28 minutes per game. Considering Porzingis has won all the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards by a landslide up to this point, there is no question that he'll be taking home the ROTY award come the end of the season.
Shahan: Although I agree that Porzingis wins in the hype category, that will only take him so far. I’m glad that you mentioned Porzingis’ teammate Carmelo Anthony.
While Kristaps has been phenomenal in helping the resurgent Knicks become slightly relevant again, he hasn’t been the star of the show in Madison Square Garden. He has had the luxury of being the second option for the Knicks, allowing Carmelo to do his thing and then have almost no pressure on himself to score.
Karl-Anthony Towns, with respect to his teammates, has nobody near the level of Carmelo Anthony to take the burden off of him. Although he has Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Garnett, they’re nowhere near the level of Carmelo at this point in their careers.
I disagree with you on the thought that Porzingis will sweep the Rookie of the Month awards for the Eastern Conference. It’s definitely possible, but more likely that Jahlil Okafor snags one or two of them from him. You can’t argue with the man who wins the most Rookie of the Month awards, and it’ll probably be Karl-Anthony Towns.
Chris: The two rookies' stats are pretty comparable, but the difference maker in my opinion is simply the hype factor that is sure to affect the decision of voters. Porzingis is giving hope to the New York fans that he can turn around the franchise in a huge market where the pressure is always on.
Additionally, Kristaps probably has an edge in highlight plays like huge put-back dunks and critical blocks, which swing the momentum of games to the Knicks' favor. There is no doubt that Towns is a great talent, but the buzz around him is not nearly what it is with the Latvian big man.
And let's not forget, the media have a say on who wins, and the media are very big on Porzingis' play this season because of his style of play and his role in the Knicks' resurgence, which suggests that he will have an edge in the voting. I fully expect Porzingis to come home with the Rookie of the Year award at the end of the season.
Shahan Kamal and Chris Hanna are campus correspondents for The Daily Campus.