Column: NBA Draft sees share of surprises

Derrin Coad, Staff Reporter

The Minnesota Timberwolves have seen their share of woes in their 26 season history. The Timberwolves have only made the playoffs eight times with the last time being in 2004, the longest playoff drought currently in the NBA.

The team hopes its time in the NBA basement will end soon, and having the first pick in the NBA Draft is almost always a great building block.

The NBA held its official 2015 draft Thursday night. Reports were circulating that the Wolves would be taking Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns with the No. 1 pick, and reports were true.

As a 6-foot-11-inch center, Towns immediately brings more size, rebounding and interior defense to the Timberwolves, who finished last season at 16-66.

Towns not only joins the promising young core of players that includes reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins and Zack LaVine, but he also joins future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett.

Garnett will no doubt play a mentor role for Towns, and since Garnett was the key piece to the only successful seasons in Timberwolves’ history, Towns would do well to listen.

The Los Angeles Lakers found themselves in pretty unfamiliar territory in this year’s draft, as they landed a top-10 pick for the second time in the last 10 years. With the No. 2 pick, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell will fill the Lakers’ need for a quality point guard.

With his 6-foot-5-inch frame, Russell will bring his fantastic passing skills as well as his top-notch ability to see the floor to the Lakers, where injuries to Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and last year’s No. 7 pick, Julius Randle, led them to finishing with the worst record in team history at 21-61.

Jahlil Okafor was projected to land anywhere in the top five of the draft, and the Philadelphia 76ers landed him with the third overall pick.

As the centerpiece of Duke’s 2015 NCAA championship team, the 6-foot-11-inch center brings another low-post presence to a team that also features Nerlens Noel and 2014’s No. 3 pick, Joel Embiid. Embiid, who sat out all of last season with a foot injury, has suffered a setback in his recovery, which could have pushed the 76ers to land Okafor.

The New York Knick fans in attendance at the draft made their voices heard when the booing came raining down on Kristaps Porzingis, the No. 4 pick by the Knicks.

The 7-foot-1-inch power forward played for the Euroleague last year, where he displayed a daft outside shooting touch and great athleticism for a player his size. The Knicks will no doubt try to have Porzingis do some weight training in the future, as he only weighs 220 pounds and will get pushed around in the NBA’s post game.

With Carmelo Anthony still being the key player for the Knicks, Porzingis will likely be used as a floor spacer and help open up the paint for Anthony to cut to the basket and work in the low post.

Rounding out the top five, shooting guard Mario Hezonja was picked by the Orlando Magic, a team that already boasts a promising young backcourt of Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo.

As a shooter, Hezonja will greatly help the Magic beyond the arc, where they finished 15th during the 2014-15 regular season.

Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, the 2015 Naismith College Player of the Year, went to the Charlotte Hornets with the ninth pick, who desperately needed a power forward to pair with center Al Jefferson.

Kaminsky’s floor spacing will nicely complement Jefferson’s inside game, as well as point guard Kemba Walker’s slashing game. Along with new addition Nicolas Batum and several other role players the team added last season, Charlotte will certainly look to make it back into the playoffs in a weak Eastern conference next season.

By the time the Chicago Bulls were set for the 22nd pick, Bobby Portis looked to be their best choice to fill out the Bulls’ needs in the frontcourt.

With Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson suffering various injuries throughout all of last season, another big man was a smart choice for a roster full of capable wing players. Portis’ midrange game and ability to get double-doubles whenever he steps on a court should prove useful to the Bulls if Noah, Gibson or Pau Gasol suffer any injuries next season.

Although the NBA season just ended with a Golden State Warriors championship, the Draft really helped kick off what could turn out to be a very exciting offseason for the NBA.

Derrin Coad can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].