On Tuesday night, Minnesota lucked into the top spot in the 2015 NBA Draft lottery. Yes, they had the most ping pong balls, but 25 percent is hardly a sure thing. The Lakers earned the No. 2 choice, avoiding the drop outside the top five that would have earmarked their pick to Philadelphia, who earned No. 3 instead. Philly also missed out on the top-10 protected Heat pick, who landed in the No. 10 spot.
But instead of going through the coterie of deferred picks for later years, let’s focus on next month’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn. Specifically, who do the Timberwolves take with the top slot?
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky Freshman, C/PF
Towns was one of the best defenders in the country last season, averaging 4.4 blockers per 40 minutes. He’s got great timing, and enough north-south mobility to get back after showing high on the pick-and-roll. Defense is what sets Towns apart from his peer in the race for No. 1, and the T-Wolves, who gave up more points per possession than any other team last season, could definitely use his presence at the five or four-spot on the front line.
Offensively, he’s turnover prone, and he doesn’t have the best foot work despite the mini-hook he can hit with either hand. As a 15-year-old on the Dominican Republic U17 team, he reportedly connected on 46 percent from downtown, according to Draft Express, and he connected on 82 percent of his attempts from the stripe. He’s got a fluid stroke, and that’s a good foundation for a possible stretch four move after he gets the basics in the paint down.
But Towns is comfortable with the ball, and will improve on the offensive end. It’s on defense where he’ll most immediately help Minnesota, and that’s why he’s got a higher upside than the No. 2 pick on most boards.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, Duke Freshman, C
He could be one of the best low-post scorers in the NBA before he turns 21, and like L.A.’s No. 5 pick last season, Julius Randle, he won’t struggle to score the ball on the block. But he can’t defend like Towns, and that’s what the Lakers sorely need. He’s the most polished offensive player in the Draft this year, and a can’t miss prospect at the NBA level, combining smarts, touch around the hoop and a big body (6-foot-11, 270 pounds).
But he’s not the defensive force Towns is usually because he’s just not as engaged at that end of the floor. With a dearth of offensively-oriented big men in NBA these days, centers are primarily used as rim-stoppers, and Okafor isn’t that. But he can get buckets. We’re not sure if there will be enough balls to go around between Okafor, Kobe and a recovering Randle, but the Lakers would be fools to pass him up if Minney goes with Towns at No. 1.