Timberwolves win 2015 NBA draft lottery, Knicks fall out of top three
Help is coming, Andrew Wiggins.
The Timberwolves won the rights to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft lottery, held Tuesday in New York City.
The Lakers will select No 2 after jumping up from the No. 4 spot. The Sixers will select No. 3 after hopping in front of the Knicks. New York was the draft's biggest loser, slipping to the No. 4 spot after beginning the night with the second-best chance of winning the lottery.
The Timberwolves have never previously held the No. 1 overall pick, but they did acquire Wiggins, the 2014 No. 1 overall pick, and Anthony Bennett, the 2013 No. 1 overall pick, in a 2014 trade with the Cavaliers involving Kevin Love. Minnesota president Flip Saunders will now look to build around a core that includes Wiggins, 2014 first-round pick Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio and Bennett.
"This is a great day for our franchise and our fans," Saunders said in a statement. "We're excited about the opportunity to have the top pick in the draft for the first time in franchise history. The No. 1 pick is a fantastic asset to have as we look to add more talent to our team."
Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns, Duke's Jahlil Okafor, Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay (who played professionally in China) are expected to be among the first players selected in this year's draft, which is set for June 25 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
Entering Tuesday, the Timberwolves had a 25% chance to win the top selection after finishing with the NBA's worst record at 16-66. The Knicks had the second-best chance at 19.9% and the Sixers were third at 15.6%.
The Heat maintained their first-round pick because none of the four teams behind them moved up in the order. Miami's pick was top-10 protected and would have gone to Philadelphia if it had slipped to 11 or lower.
The Lakers were also at risk of losing their pick had they slipped out of the top-five. Instead, they jumped up.
Here are three thoughts from the 2015 NBA draft lottery:
1. Timberwolves go under the microscope
Winning the lottery comes with a price: scrutiny. The Timberwolves just finished a fairly disastrous season and have plenty of roster reworking to do. Saunders is in an unusual coach/executive hybrid spot, and he appeared to operate at cross purposes last season. Most notably, he traded away a first-round pick for Thaddeus Young, who he later dumped to Brooklyn for nothing of consequence besides an emotional Kevin Garnett press conference. Saunders also caught some criticism for his outdated stance on three-pointers. Now, he faces a decision: take the traditional low-post scorer in Okafor or go for the more modern, "stretchier" big in Towns. The former should help Minnesota more in the short term; the latter appears to have a higher upside. Does Saunders the executive go for the quick fix to make his life as coach easier, or does he have the patience and vision to take a longer-term approach?
There's another degree of pressure: Minnesota has never been a particularly desirable NBA destination, and the Lakers and Knicks are both breathing down the Timberwolves' necks in the draft order. Within an hour of the lottery, rumors were already circling that prospects might try to angle away from Minnesota in favor of a larger market. Will that talk subside or accelerate as the draft approaches? Will it influence Saunders' decision-making? Open questions to keep an eye on.
2. Party time in the City of Angels
The Lakers badly needed some good news after a nightmare season, and they received some great news Tuesday. Not only did they keep their first-round pick, they moved up into the No. 2 spot, giving them the chance to snag either Okafor, Towns or the point guard of their choice. Towns and Mudiay are particularly intriguing options for the Lakers, who are officially ready to build up their post-Kobe Bryant talent base. Towns and 2014 lottery pick Julius Randle would make for a super talented 4/5 pairing, while Mudiay has all the hallmarks of a franchise point guard. After a season that featured mess after mess, many of them self-inflicted, the Lakers can't mess up this pick.
3. It could be worse for the Knicks
Technically, it could only have been a tiny bit worse. The Knicks slipped from the No. 2 spot to the No. 4 spot, and their absolute worst-case scenario was the No. 5 pick. The bad karma stings even worse because every other team in the lottery order held their position or moved up. New York was the only true loser.
That said, there is a meaningful difference between the No. 4 and No. 5 pick in a draft class that features two top big men prospects and two highly-regarded lead guards. If Knicks president Phil Jackson wants to add a point guard of the future, Russell or Mudiay will almost certainly be available for him at No. 4. Either of those players, and Duke's Justise Winslow, should be able to provide help in Year 1 and hope beyond that. Although disappointment is unavoidable for Knicks fans, Jackson isn't exactly going home empty-handed here.
Here's the full first-round order for this year's draft: