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The Timberwolves, who finished last season with a league-worst 16-66 record, entered the lottery with a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick, the best odds among any of the 14 teams in the running. But actually coming away with the top spot is something of an upset — only three times in the previous 21 lotteries had the team that entered with the highest likelihood of taking the No. 1 spot actually come away with the first pick, and it hadn't happened since the Orlando Magic won the opportunity to select Dwight Howard back in 2004.
"It's very important to us," Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said after his team's lottery victory. "We have a very young team, and one more outstanding young man will really help us."
Taylor demurred when asked which hole on the Minnesota roster he believed the No. 1 pick might fill.
"We just want a young man that's got a great heart and a great mind," he said.
Team president and head coach Flip Saunders, too, said there was not yet any consensus on which player the Wolves plan to take first overall:
Flip adamant they haven't decided who they are taking No. 1.— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) May 20, 2015
"We're in this for big stakes," Saunders said, according to The Associated Press. "The big thing about this is getting good talent that can blend together. This is another big step."
All that "big" talk might betray Minnesota's likely path, as many observers expect the Wolves to look for size at No. 1 overall. Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke's Jahlil Okafor profile as the top two big-man prospects in the draft, with Okafor considered the more refined offensive player when it comes to scoring and facilitating out of the low post, and some evaluators pegging Towns as the superior defensive player and thinking he might have the higher ceiling of the two.
Whichever player Saunders and company identify as their preferred target, the fans assembled at Target Center on Tuesday night sure seemed thrilled by the opportunity to add this year's No. 1 pick to add to last year's No. 1 overall selection, Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, as well as Minnesota's 2014 first-rounder, the electric Zach LaVine, and passing-savant point guard Ricky Rubio — plus, we are contractually obligated to mention 2013 No. 1 choice Anthony Bennett — in a talented young core that may or may not get to learn under future Hall of Famer and Minnesota legend Kevin Garnett:
And, judging by the reaction of Saunders and his staff in the Minny war room, those fans aren't alone:
The Los Angeles Lakers, who came into the lottery with an 11.9 percent chance of picking first, moved up from their fourth-place spot into the No. 2 slot in June's draft. In so doing, they will hang onto their 2015 pick, which could have gone to the Philadelphia 76ers, by virtue of a pair of past trades involving L.A.'s '15 first-rounder. Now, not only do they keep their selection, but they'll have an even wider array of top-flight prospects from which to choose in making their pick.
This result clearly pleased Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who was none too thrilled about having to suffer through an injury-plagued season and watch his once-proud franchise flounder with the likes of the also-rans down at the bottom of the standings in search of some lottery luck:
(Also, he made a poop joke.)
With Bryant back in the fold for his 20th pro season, their 2014 lottery pick, power forward Julius Randle, healthy after suffering a fractured right tibia during his first NBA game, surprising All-Rookie First Team point guard Jordan Clarkson providing a jolt of youth and athleticism in the backcourt, and a boatload of money to spend in free agency, the Lakers' stay in the depths of the Western Conference's dungeon could be short-lived.
The 76ers' own selection, which had a 15.6 percent shot of landing atop the draft board, slotted in at No. 3. Philadelphia will wind up making only its own pick in this year's draft, as both the Lakers and the Miami Heat (whose first-rounder would have landed in Pennsylvania had it fallen outside the top 10) held onto their protected picks.
Despite their #OneSixEleven dreams failing to materialize, Philly fans seem psyched at the prospect of adding the No. 3 pick — perhaps a point guard, like Emmanuel Mudiay or Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell, or a wing player like Duke's Justise Winslow — to a young core that already features a pair of highly touted bigs, 2013 first-rounder Nerlens Noel and 2014 first-rounder Joel Embiid:
The New York Knicks entered the lottery with a 19.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick, and a 55.8 percent chance of selecting in the top three. Instead, they dropped down to No. 4 when the Lakers rose up. They were the only one of the 14 teams in the lottery to fall below their initial odds in the final drawing.
The response from Knicks fans, as you might expect, was disappointment:
Knicks Lottery viewing party reaction: pic.twitter.com/oHiR8zJlX5— Abe Schwadron (@abe_squad) May 20, 2015
Judging by his response on the draft dais, that's precisely what Knicks general manager Steve Mills was feeling, too:
The NEW YORK KNICKS have the 4th Pick… pic.twitter.com/5vgkjzhrr9— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) May 20, 2015
Yeah, that seems about right.
(This is where we remind downtrodden Knicks fans that diamonds are often found outside the top three of the NBA draft, and that winding up with one of the draft's most highly regarded point guards, two-way perimeter players or even a defensive-minded big man like Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein might not be the worst thing in the world. Deep breaths, New York. Deep breaths.)
Here's the full video of the pre-broadcast lottery drawing itself, in the event you still believe these things are rigged:
The full first-round order is now set:
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. New York Knicks
10. Miami Heat
11. Indiana Pacers
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns
16. Boston Celtics
17. Milwaukee Bucks
20. Toronto Raptors
21. Dallas Mavericks
22. Chicago Bulls
27. Lakers (via Rockets, as part of last summer's Jeremy Lin trade)
29. Nets (via Hawks, on the other end of the Johnson pick swap)
The 2015 NBA draft will take place on Thursday, June 25, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
More NBA draft coverage:
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