Head to Head: Rookie of the Year so far?

Who has the best case for Rookie of the Year so far this season? Jessica Camerato and Jesse Blancarte discuss.

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So far this season we have seen some impressive performances from several rookies. There was a lot of excitement surrounding several of the lottery picks and some have certainly lived up to, and exceeded the hype. In today’s Head to Head, Jessica Camerato and Jesse Blancarte make the case for who they think is leading so far in this year’s Rookie of the Year race.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Being the number one pick comes with pressure and high expectations. Get overshadowed by a later selection –even second or third– and a player can be considered a bust.

Minnesota Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is living up to those expectations early into his rookie year.

The young team had an immediate need for Towns to play major minutes and be a key contributor. There was no watch and learn period, it was learn as you go. As a result, he is averaging 28.3 minutes per game (third on the team) as part of the starting lineup.

During that times Towns has demonstrated his potential to become a double-double threat early in his career. He is posting 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.

Most significantly, Towns is developing under the tutelage of Kevin Garnett. This mentorship gives Towns an invaluable edge over other rookies as the knowledge he will gain this season will have long-lasting benefits in years to come. In addition to the Xs and Os, he has firsthand insight into championship winning mentality and what it takes to become a future Hall of Famer.

– Jessica Camerato

Kristaps Porzingis

Karl-Anthony Towns has played incredibly well so far this season and has shown almost no weaknesses in his game, which is almost unheard of for an NBA rookie. But my pick for Rookie of the Year, at this point in the season, goes to Kristaps Porzingis.

Through 25 games, Porzingis is averaging 13.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, one assist, and 1.8 blocks per game, while shooting 44.1 percent from the field, 35.4 percent from three and 84.2 percent on free-throws. These averages aren’t quite as good as Towns’ but per 36 minutes, they aren’t far off. Porzingis made his living early this season with some impressive put-back dunks, but has shown over the last few weeks that he has a well-rounded game as well.

In a recent showdown against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, Porzingis poured in 28 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks. He put his full arsenal on display (though his rebounding was off) and showed strong defensive awareness in clutch moments. His performance drew a lot of attention and praise, most notably from Nowitzki and Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle.

“It’s more than fair,” Nowitzki said of Porzingis being compared to him. “He’s probably way ahead of the curve … he’s way better than I was at 20.”

“Porzingis is a special player, and the city of New York has Phil Jackson to thank for that one,” Carlisle said. “There were others who didn’t have the [guts] to pull the trigger on that one. … “He’s a great young player, who has a chance to be truly special.”

The thing about Porzingis is that we haven’t even seen the best he has to offer yet. A lot of his production comes from playing with a lot of energy off the ball. The Knicks run actions for him in limited situations and have only recently started expanding his offensive role. However, it should be noted that he has turned in some poor performances recently, which tends to happen to young rookies who are adapting to the NBA’s rigorous 82-game schedule.

Karl-Anthony Towns is a star and may go down as the best player from this draft. However, Porzingis has also shown that he is a cornerstone piece and can impact the game on both ends of the court, and has done so within a more confined role than Towns so far.

– Jesse Blancarte

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