NEW YORK, (Reuters) – The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Karl-Anthony Towns from the University of Kentucky with the first overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center yesterday.
The 19-year-old is considered an ideal modern NBA big man with a combination of defensive domination, low post scoring brilliance and an ability to shoot from outside — qualities craved by a team that has not made the playoffs since 2004.
“I’m going to go in right away and just be as versatile as I can,” Towns said. “That’s what I want Wolves fans to know. I’m coming in with a winning attitude.”
The versatile, 6-foot-11 (2.11m) centre averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 56.6 percent from the floor as a freshman for a University of Kentucky team that went 38-0 in the regular college season.
While the selection of Towns was widely expected, some surprises followed.
The Los Angeles Lakers made 6-foot-5 guard D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State University the second pick of the draft, defying many prognosticators who had pegged Duke centre Jahlil Okafor going second overall.
Russell, a 6-foot-5 point guard from Ohio State, averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in steering the Buckeyes to a 24-11 record and was thrilled to get a chance to play with backcourt scoring great Kobe Bryant.
“I want him to take me under his wing, and gain every piece of knowledge that I can gain,” said Russell, a gifted offensive player with great court vision and a pure shooting stroke.
Okafor did not have to wait long as he went third to the Philadelphia 76ers, despite their having claimed big men Nerlens Noel and Joel Ebiid in recent drafts.
“I’m excited,” said Okafor. “I’m in the NBA. That was my dream my entire life.”
Two highly touted international players followed with the next two picks.
The New York Knicks claimed towering, sweet shooting forward Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia, who has played with Cajasol Seville of the Spanish league, with the fourth pick.
Going fifth to the Orlando Magic was sharp-shooting, 6-foot-8 guard Mario Hezonja of Croatia, who also played in Spain for Barcelona.
The 30 NBA teams will hold two rounds of selections.