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    Louisville native and former Ohio State star D'Angelo Russell and University of Kentucky alum Karl-Anthony Towns make their NBA debuts Wednesday night.

    Against each other.

    Russell and the Los Angeles Lakers will face Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Staples Center. It’s the No.1 overall pick (Towns) versus the No.2 selection (Russell). As talented as Towns and Russell seem to be, what are the odds that both develop into great professionals? Well, based on recent drafts, thinner than LeBron’s hairline.
     
    Since the 1995 NBA draft, there have been (obviously) 40 players taken with the first two picks. Guess how many times both the No.1 and No.2 pick of the same draft became All-Stars?
     
    Once — in 1999.
     
    Elton Brand was the top-overall pick, followed by Steve Francis. Brand, 36, just wrapped up a solid career. (Raise your hand if you knew he was in the league last year as a member of the Atlanta Hawks). The once-electrifying Francis, 38, is also retired.
     
    Brand and Francis were good, but neither were transformative.
     
    Using the past two decades as a barometer, the odds of success favors Towns. Of the 20 players picked No.1 overall, 13 have at least become All-Stars. Allen Iverson (1996), Tim Duncan (’97), LeBron James (2003), and Dwight Howard (’04) will be in the Hall of Fame. Duncan is the best player of his generation and James could finish as the greatest in league history.
     
    Anthony Davis (2012) is a star (highest Player Efficiency Rating in the league in 2014-15) but Anthony Bennett (2013) is one of the biggest busts in NBA history and the jury’s still out on Andrew Wiggins (2014). Yes, he was the 2014-15 rookie of the year. The advanced metrics tell a different narrative.


    In Value Over Replacement Player, Wiggins was No.418th among 492 players ranked by basketball-reference.com. His V.O.R.P. of minus-0.2 was one of the worst ever by a rookie of the year winner. His plus-minus differential (minus-553 points) was -the- worst in the league, according to sportingcharts.com.
     
    Of course, you can make the argument that Wiggins was negatively affected by a supporting cast that would have trouble beating mannequins. Perhaps Towns will change the Timberwolves’ fortunes.
     
    Better to be Minnesota than Los Angeles. Shockingly since 1995, only five No.2 picks have become All-Stars and none since Kevin Durant in 2007. When you look at recent history, your head might combust.
     
    Michael Beasley (2008) loves SpongeBob SquarePants more than basketball. Hasheem Thabeet (2009) is the rare 7-foot-3 human being that no team wants. Evan Turner (2010) thought he could dunk on LeBron. Derrick Williams (2011) is with the lowly New York Knicks. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012) hasn’t made a three-point basket since January 2014. (He’s 3 for 18 in his career).

    Victor Oladipo (2013) is too young to judge. He was the top-scorer (17.9) on a bad team (Orlando Magic, 25–57). Jabari Parker (2014) missed most of last season due to a knee injury.
     

    Of course, past performances aren’t necessarily indicative of future results. Maybe Towns and Russell will buck the trend.

    So, who you got… Towns or Russell?

    (Photo courtesy of the L.A. Lakers Facebook page)

     

    Michael Grant's picture

    About Michael Grant

    Sports reporter in Louisville. Film buff. Capricorn.

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