Minnesota wins lottery, to make first selection in NBA draft

Minnesota won the draft lottery on Thursday night, with the Golden State Warriors landing at No. 2 and the Charlotte Hornets at No. 3.

Unlike the dynamic 2019 combination of Williamson and Morant, there are no clear-cut top prospects in this year's draft.   -  REUTERS

For the second time in six seasons, the Minnesota Timberwolves will make the first selection in the NBA draft.

Minnesota won the draft lottery on Thursday night, with the Golden State Warriors landing at No. 2 and the Charlotte Hornets at No. 3.

The Timberwolves, Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers shared the best odds - 14 percent - at winning the lottery and getting the top selection.

“Wow. Super exciting,” Timberwolves guard D'Angelo Russell, who was traded by Golden State to Minnesota in February, told ESPN.

“We trust Gersson (Rosas, the president of basketball operations,) and Ryan (Saunders, the head coach) and all those guys to continue making Minnesota a home for some of the younger guys coming up. ...

“The bar is set now. We're excited to get it going.”

Rosas said in a statement, “We are excited for the possibilities ahead of us to bring in a high caliber player now that we secured the first overall selection. As a front office, we are proud of what we've built here in Minnesota so far and we are looking forward to continuing to build upon that foundation in this year's draft.

“We know with the number one pick we have the opportunity to draft an impact player who could immediately complement our young, strong core in All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns and All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell.

“The front office and I are prepared to get right to work with this new component for the draft and we're confident we will be able to bring energy and excitement to our fanbase with our next moves.”

Minnesota chose Towns with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. The Timberwolves also acquired the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, Andrew Wiggins, from the Cleveland Cavaliers before he played a game in the NBA.

The Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons had greater than a 10 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday. Charlotte had a 6 percent of coming out on top.

This is the second year of the NBA's flattened lottery odds. Last year, the system led to drama, and a potential franchise cornerstone for the New Orleans Pelicans in Zion Williamson.

Entering the 2019 lottery, the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland shared the best odds to land Williamson, whose blend of physical stature, athleticism and marketing potential made him a generational prospect.

Instead, New Orleans (which had a 6 percent chance to pick first) shot up to the top. The Memphis Grizzlies, who had a 6.3 chance to land at No. 2, drafted Ja Morant, the front-runner for Rookie of the Year and a likely franchise cornerstone.

The Los Angeles Lakers, who had a 2.8 percent chance to get the fourth selection, rose to that spot -- then included that pick in the package to trade for superstar Anthony Davis.

Prior to Thursday's lottery, the probability for landing the No. 1 pick for the other teams involved: New York (9 percent chance), Chicago Bulls (7.5 percent), Washington Wizards (4.5 percent), Phoenix (3 percent), San Antonio Spurs (2 percent), Sacramento Kings (1.3 percent), New Orleans (1.2 percent) and Memphis (0.5 percent).

The lottery odds were based on the pre-shutdown standings.

Unlike the dynamic 2019 combination of Williamson and Morant, there are no clear-cut top prospects in this year's draft.

This group also does not appear to have the depth of a 2018 class that included 2020 All-Stars Luka Doncic and Trae Young, along with promising talents Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Michael Porter Jr. and Mikal Bridges.

Prospect evaluation has been different for front offices during this cycle, with no NCAA Tournament games to scout, no combine and no in-person workouts due to do COVID-19 precautions.

Here is a breakdown of some of the top available prospects, per various draft evaluators:

LaMelo Ball, who played professionally in Australia out of high school, routinely rips off highlight-worthy passes and boasts a tight handle. But there are concerns about his shooting efficiency, and he is naturally polarizing to some because of his father's reputation.

Georgia's Anthony Edwards is an explosive wing, and might be the biggest sure thing as a productive NBA player.

Dayton's Obi Toppin was college basketball's Player of the Year. He is a big man with a versatile skill set, and excels offensively in the pick and roll.

James Wiseman is a 7-foot-1 center with physicality and defensive prowess. But the former No. 1 recruit is still a bit of an unknown because he only played in three college games at Memphis due to NCAA eligibility issues.

Iowa State's Tyrese Haliburton is a pro-ready point guard because of his decision-making with the ball in his hands.

Killian Hayes of France is another elite playmaking point guard.

Southern California's Onyeka Okongwu is a skilled big man who can pass, handle and score.

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