Towns set to become 2015 NBA draft first pick for Timberwolves

Jay Asser 06:36 25/06/2015
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Hot favourite: Towns.

This year’s NBA draft doesn’t have much mystery at the top, but there’s plenty of intrigue as to where many of the incoming players will land in the league.

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The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the top overall pick for the first time in their 26-year history and could become the first team to have three consecutive No 1 selections share the floor.

Last summer, Minnesota traded away franchise cornerstone Kevin Love to Cleveland for Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.

Though a change of scenery didn’t help Bennett, Wiggins had a promising rookie campaign and while he couldn’t keep the Timberwolves from finishing with the worst record in the league, he’s given them a new piece to build around.

Minnesota will add to that core tonight, likely by selecting Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky. By all accounts, the Timberwolves will choose the skilled big man over Duke centre Jahlil Okafor. That will leave the Los Angeles Lakers, selecting at two, with a player who was considered the consensus top pick throughout the season before losing the pole position to Towns down the stretch.

The Lakers have reportedly been interested in packaging their second pick to make a bid for Sacramento Kings star DeMarcus Cousins, with recent reports claiming coach George Karl wants to move on from the centre. However, a trade appears unlikely on draft night, with Kings owner Vivek Ranadive shooting down the rumours.

“We have no interest in moving him,” Ranadive said of Cousins. “From my perspective, it’s really simple: We feel that he’s a one-of-a-kind player, and we have a group of players right now and we’re going to build on it.”

Sitting at three, the Philadelphia 76ers – always unpredictable under general manager Sam Hinkie – could take the conventional approach and choose D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State.

The point guard would fill the hole left by Michael Carter-Williams, who was traded mid-season last year after being considered one of Philadelphia’s core players for the future.

Towns, Okafor and Russell are widely considered the top three players available, but following their names being called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the real excitement will be in how the rest of the draft unfolds.

Two international prospects firmly on teams’ radars are Latvia’s Kristaps Porzingis and Croatia’s Mario Hezonja, with both players expected to go anywhere from near the top of the lottery to back-end of the top 10.

Porzingis is a 7-foot centre with a tantalising shooting stroke and fluidity, while Hezonja, of Barcelona’s basketball team, displays plenty of confidence as an athletic swingman.

When the 20-year-old was asked if he had been to see Lionel Messi play for the European champions, Hezonja said: “Let Messi come see me.”

Emmanuel Mudiay, meanwhile, is technically considered an international prospect, but is more known stateside than his European peers.

The point guard by-passed college in the United States to spend his one regulated season out of high school playing overseas in China. Mudiay’s draft position could indicate how much that decision impacted his stock.

One team that could be aggressive in moving up in the draft are the Boston Celtics. Owning the 16th, 28th, 33rd and 45th selections, along with plenty of accumulated picks in the coming years, Boston has the ammo to entice teams and climb into the top 10.

The two-round draft will be held on Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (UAE: 03:00 +1) as the league’s future stars have their basketball dreams fulfilled.

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