The Minnesota Timberwolves have had some serious success drafting big men from Chicago. Twenty years later they'll get another chance.
Minnesota entered Tuesday night's NBA Lottery with the best odds at earning the first overall pick. And after a 66-loss season marred by injuries and development to their young core, the ping-pong balls fell the right way and rewarded them with that coveted top pick. The Lakers, 76ers, Knicks and Magic round out the top-five.
It gives the Timberwolves their pick of talented young freshman. The consensus seems to be that Kentucky forward Karl Anthony-Tows and Duke center Jahlil Okafor will come off the board in the first two picks. And while Towns' impressive season with the Wildcats seemed to vault him past Okafor on most big boards, Draft Express' Jonathan Givony tweeted shortly after the results that head coach and GM Flip Saunders "really likes" Okafor.
Either way the Timberwolves are in desperate need of a post presence on both ends of the floor. After dealing Kevin Love for former No. 1 overall picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota finished 20th in total rebounding percentage and allowed teams to shoot better than 48 percent from the field, the league's worst defensive mark. But the youth movement is well underway in Minnesota. Along with Bennett and Wiggins, who won the Rookie of the Year award, they also have guards Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio, wing Shabazz Muhammad and talented center Gorgui Dieng; Rubio is the oldest of that group at 24 years young.
In 1995 the Timberwolves selected Kevin Garnett, who had played his final season of high school basketball at Farragut Career Academy in Chicago, with the No. 5 overall pick. The future Hall of Famer spent the first 12 years of his career in Minnesota before being dealt to Boston, where he won a title in 2008. Garnett returned to Boston this past season and undoubtedly will bring valuable mentoring (and some legendary trash talk) to whomever Minnesota selects with that top pick.
Should the Timberwolves opt for Towns, that would leave Okafor with a real chance to head out west and join Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Los Angeles opted for a one-and-done last year, selecting Kentucky freshman Julius Randle with the No. 4 pick. Randle broke his leg in the preseason, but the Lakers found a second-round gem in the same draft in Jordan Clarkson, who was named to the All-Rookie team.
Either way, the Whitney Young is sure to hear his name called early on June 26, completing a journey that has seen him win back-to-back titles as a high school senior and freshman at Duke.