NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Minnesota Timberwolves won the National Basketball Association’s draft lottery on Tuesday, giving them the first selection in the NBA draft for the first time.
The Timberwolves had a 25 percent chance — the best odds among the 14 non-playoff teams in the draw — at winning the weighted lottery after finishing with the worst record in the 2014-15 regular season.
For the first time since 2004, the team in best position actually claimed the top pick, giving Minnesota reason to rejoice after their lowly 16-66 mark in the regular season.
“We just want a young man with a great heart and a great mind,” said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who attended the lottery at a midtown Manhattan hotel ballroom.
Centers Karl-Anthony Towns from the University of Kentucky and Jahlil Okafor from Duke are widely considered the prizes of the draft to be held on June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Other highly touted candidates include point guards D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) and Emmanuel Mudiay, who played professionally this year in China, and Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis, who played in Spain’s professional league.
One surprise shook up the selection order as the Los Angeles Lakers leapfrogged from the presumed fourth pick to the second spot, changing places with the New York Knicks.
“I just know right now there’s a lot of happy people in Los Angeles,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott.
“This is a big step for us in the process of rebuilding our team and getting back to ... playoff championship basketball.”
The Philadelphia 76ers will select third and the Orlando Magic fifth.
The Timberwolves’ draft choice will join last year’s top pick Andrew Wiggins on Minnesota’s roster as he was obtained from the Cavaliers before the 2014-15 season as part of a deal that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland.
Wolves President Flip Saunders was thrilled.
“This is a great day for our franchise and our fans,” said Saunders in a statement. “The No. 1 pick is a fantastic asset to have as we look to add more talent to our team.”
A loud groan resounded in the ballroom when the Knicks were announced in the fourth slot.
“There’s a little disappointment. We would have liked to get a higher pick,” Knicks General Manager Steve Mills said. “But we know that any one of the top five picks will give us a very good player.”
Editing by Frank Pingue/Peter Rutherford