History's famous debates: Lincoln-Douglas, Kennedy-Nixon and Tastes Great-Less Filling.
ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla says the first pick in this year's NBA Draft adds another: Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Duke's Jahlil Okafor.
"There's going to be a long, healthy debate about both Towns and Okafor," Fraschilla said on a teleconference Wednesday. "And it's going to take a few weeks to sort itself out."
Fraschilla sees Okafor as a better player, especially offensively, right now. But he suggested Towns could be the better player long-term.
Of Okafor, Fraschilla said, "You're talking about a very skilled, young offensive player at 6-11 who I think in his early 20s is going to be unguardable.
"Whereas, Towns is not as ready-made as Okafor, maybe, offensively. But he's got tantalizing shot-blocking potential. He's developing into a low-post scorer."
While noting questions about Okafor's defensive ability, Fraschilla said Towns could be a more versatile offensive player.
"Something that was not seen this year that many of us who have watched him play since he was about 16 know he can do is step away from the bucket and shoot threes."
Fraschilla gave the edge to Towns. "Because he's the grand slam," the ESPN analyst said, "and Okafor is just the home run."
By winning only 17 games last season, the New York Knicks have the second-best chance of making the first selection in the draft on June 25. The order in the lottery will be determined Tuesday.
When asked which player the Knicks would take, Fraschilla said, "They're going to be scratching their heads for about a month ... Okafor may be more ready to average 18 and nine as a rookie. And Towns has a chance to be the better player over the next decade ... .
"I think the dilemma's going to be: do you want the surer thing early in Okafor versus rolling the dice a little bit and maybe Towns becomes the better player over time."
Neither Towns nor Okafor will participate in the NBA Combine, which will be Thursday and Friday in Chicago. Fraschilla did not sound alarmed by their absences. Both players are sure to be taken among the first five picks. He called the Combine "essentially a cattle call."
Four in top 20
While noting that Dakari Johnson and twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison do not project as first-rounders, Fraschilla said, "The other four clearly are in the top 20 picks, I believe."
Those four, including Towns, are Willie Cauley-Stein, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles.
Fraschilla likened Cauley-Stein to Tyson Chandler: A shot blocker, rim protector and pick-and-roll defender who might not be counted on for scoring.
Fraschilla said Booker was the youngest player in the draft, has been in "the family business" (father Melvin Booker played in Europe), is mature, will be "low maintenance" and is a "deceptive athlete."
Lyles played out of position much of the season "by necessity," Fraschilla said. UK's glut of "bigs" meant a shift to small forward for Lyles to get on the floor.
Fraschilla said Lyles could develop into "a good, solid low-post player who can pick-and-pop a little bit. Not a great athlete. But I can see him being a solid NBA player for a decade."
The other three UK players in this year's draft are not widely projected as first-round picks.
Dakari Johnson has one undeniable attribute: height.
Quoting a friend's maxim, Fraschilla said, "Size rises." So Johnson could become a first-round pick.
"Kind of a plodder," Fraschilla said before adding, "but he is very young still."
As for the twins, Fraschilla said each had "prototype NBA size." But ...
"They're not elite athletes," he said. "Andrew plays point guard better than Aaron plays two-guard right now.
"Both must prove they can shoot well from the perimeter because, right now, shooting is at a premium."
Of the Harrisons, Fraschilla said, "Both will end up on a roster when it's all said and done."
Of the six UK players at the NBA Combine, only Aaron and Andrew Harrison are scheduled to play in games. Booker, Cauley-Stein, Johnson and Lyles will do only interviews, shooting drills, and agility tests, and undergo physical exams. ... Fraschilla spoke highly of Cameron Payne, who entered the draft after his sophomore year at Murray State. Payne might be selected as high as ninth and no lower than 20th in the first round.