The NBA Draft lottery on Tuesday night was fairly chalk as the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team with the worst record, won it for the first time in franchise history. So what might the first few picks of the lottery look like next month? My projections and NBA odds.
No. 1 Pick: Timberwolves
The Wolves became the first team since Orlando in 2004 to win the lottery with the highest percentage chance. That picked worked out pretty well for the Magic as they took Atlanta high school big man Dwight Howard. Minnesota has never had the No. 1 overall pick -- In eight of their previous lotteries, the Wolves moved down at least one spot -- -and, presuming the team keeps it, could become the first club ever with three straight top overall picks on the roster. The team acquired 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and 2014 top selection Andrew Wiggins in the Kevin Love trade with Cleveland last season, with Wiggins winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Minnesota really has a nice future with young players Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and this selection. Maybe Bennett actually becomes something, although he looks like a bust. There's no doubt the Wolves are going to take either Duke big man Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns with the pick. Okafor projects more as a center and Towns probably a No. 4. If that's the case, Towns would seem to be the choice because the Wolves have a solid center in Nikola Pekovic and then Dieng behind him. Okafor is a gifted low-post offensive player but Towns project as the better all-around talent. Coach/GM Flip Saunders said the Wolves will have a presence at Okafor's workout Thursday in California. Bovada has an NBA odds prop on the top pick: Towns -200, Okafor +175 or any other player +500. There will certainly be other props closer to the draft.
NBA Free Pick: It will be Towns barring some injury or off-court incident before the draft.
No. 2 Pick: Lakers
Los Angeles was the huge winner of the night as the only team to move up: the Lakers jumped from No. 4 to No. 2. Had the Lakers dropped to No. 6, they would have had to hand over the pick to Philadelphia. In a way, the Los Angeles Lakers will have the easiest draft of anyone. They will simply take whichever big man that Minnesota doesn't and pair him with last season's first-round pick, power forward Julius Randle (another Kentucky one-and-done like Towns). He was lost for the season to a broken leg in last year's opener so no one really knows how good Randle might be. In my mind, this takes the Lakers out of trying to lure Kevin Love as a free agent because now they have their frontcourt. They need guards and wing players.
NBA Free Pick: Okafor.
No. 3 Pick: 76ers
Philly stayed put in the lottery. I would have been very curious if the 76ers had moved into the top two because they appear set in the frontcourt with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Would they have taken Okafor or Towns? Philadelphia needs guards in the worst way, especially after trading Michael Carter-Williams during last season. So now the Sixers will have their pick of the top two guards: Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell and prep star Emmanuel Mudiay, who played in China last year. Most people who place NBA picks believe Russell can play either guard spot, plus he shined against top college competition so he is generally higher on scouts' boards.
NBA Free Pick: Russell.
No. 4 Pick: Knicks
The poor Knicks can't catch a break. They had the worst record nearly all of last season but lost it in the final few games to the Wolves. Then New York dropped from the No. 2 spot to No. 4 in the lottery, swapping spots with the Lakers. So maybe there wasn't a total conspiracy this season; if there had been, the Lakers and Knicks both would have moved up. The New York Knicks are incredibly weak at power forward and center so Okafor or Towns would really have filled a need. Clearly Mudiay is the best player available here, but already you are hearing the Knicks will shop it. "We know we can get a good player at this pick. We're also going to be open to talking to teams and looking at different options," GM Steve Mills said. Mudiay might be a star but it will probably take at least three years for that to happen and Phil Jackson might not be that patient. How about Ty Lawson and the No. 7 from Denver for this pick? The Nuggets surely would want more in return.
NBA Free Pick: Knicks don't get what they want in trade and take Mudiay.