Top cat: Timberwolves take Towns at No. 1
Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
NEW YORK — The Minnesota Timberwolves are hoping big man Karl-Anthony Towns lives up to all the hype.
The Timberwolves selected the 6-foot-11 freshman sensation out of Kentucky with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Towns, 19, who averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game in his only season with the Wildcats, was widely believed to be the top overall selection by experts heading into the draft.
The New Jersey native is considered a highly skilled, two-way threat who can impact games on both ends of the floor.
The Timberwolves, who currently are in rebuilding mode, hope Towns and last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, can be a formidable duo for years to come. Minnesota acquired Wiggins in the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland last summer.
Two decades ago, the Timberwolves selected Kevin Garnett fifth overall in the draft, and he turned into a superstar. Assuming Garnett — who was traded back to Minnesota in February — returns for his 21st season, he will be tasked with mentoring Towns.
It didn’t take long for the first surprise of the draft, as the Los Angeles Lakers passed on selecting Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor, instead taking Ohio State freshman point guard D’Angelo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick.
Okafor went No. 3 overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, where he will be paired with second-year pro Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt. Big man Joel Embiid, who had to sit out his rookie season due to injury, recently suffered a setback in his return from a broken ankle, and his return is unknown.
Embiid quickly welcomed Okafor on Twitter.
Aye my boy is in philly with me #AfricanConnection
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 25, 2015
Boos rained down from the rafters in Brooklyn as New York Knicks fans showed their displeasure over their team selecting Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 overall pick.
Croatian forward Mario Hezonja was selected by the Orlando Magic, rounding out the top five. It was just the third time two international players were selected in the top five, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. It also happened in 2002 and 2011.
Kentucky junior big man Willie Cauley-Stein became the second Wildcat to come off the board when he was taken sixth by the Sacramento Kings.
Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who played all of last season in China during his one-and-done year, went seventh to the Denver Nuggets.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.