NBA: Wolves win lottery, to pick first in NBA draft
NEW YORK -- The Timberwolves squashed their bad-luck history Tuesday when they received the first overall pick during the NBA draft lottery in New York. For the first time in 19 lottery attempts, Minnesota will have the top pick in the draft. Min...
NEW YORK -- The Timberwolves squashed their bad-luck history Tuesday when they received the first overall pick during the NBA draft lottery in New York.
For the first time in 19 lottery attempts, Minnesota will have the top pick in the draft. Minnesota had a 25 percent chance of getting the first pick - and a 75 percent chance of falling to the second, third or fourth pick.
“It was a great day,” Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said.
Since the Wolves were first included in the lottery in 1990, the team with the best odds, or tied for the best odds, has gotten the first pick just three times in 25 lotteries.
The Wolves had the best odds in 2011 and 1992 and dropped in those draft orders.
Now Minnesota will have wait on no other team to pick between Duke’s Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns on draft day June 25.
“I can say this right now: We don’t know who we’re going to pick,” Saunders said. “We have an idea, and there’s a lot of different directions that we can go. But we’re going to evaluate these guys.”
Saunders said the pick will give them “flexibility,” meaning they can take whoever they want, and that could include Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, and are not likely to trade the pick.
The Wolves had not improved their draft spot in the previous 18 attempts. They have stayed at the same spot eight times and slid 10 times.
Wolves fans were bracing for history to repeat itself. When New York got the fourth But when Minnesota got the first pick, the fans erupted.
Danny Schnyders, 30, has been a Wolves fan his whole life and was anticipating the third pick.
“Just given the history of the Wolves and the history of Minnesota sports in general,” said Schnyders of St. Paul.
For Saunders, the draft pick had extra meaning after his father, Walter, recently passed away. Saunders first coached the Wolves from 1995 to 2005, and as he went on to coach Detroit or Washington, his father would still be wearing a Wolves shirt when Saunders would visit.
Saunders choked up when mentioning his father at the start of the news conference.
“He was a huge fan of the Timberwolves,” Saunders said. “Maybe because that was my first job and I was here so long, but he was a huge fan and I can remember two months ago when he was watching games and we would talk. He would say you just gotta build and hope you get another good player. Maybe he had something to do with it.”
The Wolves endured a long season in 2014-15. They received the best odds in the lottery after having the worst record (16-66).
New York, which had the second-best odds of getting No. 1 (19.9 percent), ended up with the fourth pick. Philadelphia, at 15.6 percent, got third. The Los Angeles Lakers, who had the fourth best odds (11.9 percent), received the second pick.
Pairing the future No. 1 pick with last year’s No. 1, Andrew Wiggins, means the ante has been raised for the Wolves.
“We’re in this for big stakes,” Saunders said.” The big thing about this is getting good talent that can blend together. This is another big step.”