Towns earns over $30 million extra if he makes an All-NBA team this season. The fact that media voters decide whether he gets that money is a debate for another time.
While Aldridge has led the Spurs to yet another postseason, he is the outsider of the trio. Aldridge is a solid player, and arguably All-Star calibre, but voters will lean towards the offensive prowess of Towns and the defensive dominance of Gobert, who is also looking to retain Defensive Player of the Year.
This is about Towns versus Gobert.
Their styles and strengths are in stark contrast. Towns’ defence has been a liability for much of his NBA career. Gobert is developing from being a defensive specialist centre. The Frenchman screens hard and is a prolific dunker. Towns will throw it down as well as anyone, but his offensive game is varied, his ceiling is as high as he wants it to be.
Towns hit form at the right time, catching fire after the All-Star break, putting up a string of monster offensive games. He faded a little towards the end of the season, however, as his three-point shooting cooled. His 40% mark from beyond the arc over the campaign is remarkable, but it’s something Towns has made almost normal, having shot 42.1% in 2017/18.
Gobert had a career-best year in scoring and rebounding. Utah’s centre led the NBA in effective scoring percentage. The Jazz had the best adjusted defensive rating in the league, and Gobert’s role in that is enormous. His presence scares off potential drivers, his long arms closing down passing angles and lay-up opportunities. As an offensive force, he is an enabler, setting picks for Donovan Mitchell and handing off to shooters Joe Ingles and Kyle Korver.
Preference, or philosophy, plays a part in deciding this contest. Gobert is renowned as a defender, but his limitations offensively may put some off. Towns single-handedly won games; his impact often more obvious.
The state of their respective teams should be considered, too.
Minnesota have barely played a competitive game all season, with the franchise being turned on its head by Jimmy Butler’s preseason trade request and the following departure of Tom Thibodeau. Andrew Wiggins continues to underperform, leaving Towns in the mid-lottery wilderness.
Utah recovered from a rough start to secure a solid playoff seeding once more. Gobert was consistent, and he needed to be, with every game of the Jazz’s season meaning something. Every NBA game is relevant, of course, but it would be unfair on Gobert to put Minnesota’s second half of the campaign on a par with Utah in terms of pressure, importance and intensity.
Towns needed to build on his post-break form to be the frontrunner. Passing 30 points twice in his final 12 games, including a couple of disappointing performances against the Clippers and Sixers, will have changed some voters’ minds.
Gobert was an overwhelming force down the stretch, registering a positive plus/minus in 13 of his final 14 games. The Defensive Player of the Year favourite was pivotal in Utah securing the fifth seed and doing so may well have landed him a second All-NBA selection.