NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Minnesota Timberwolves are expected make versatile big man Karl-Anthony Towns of Kentucky the top pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft where a deep pool of U.S. college and international talent are up for grabs.
Towns, who can play power forward or center at 6-foot-11, can shoot from the outside, score inside and is a superior defender — ready made for the NBA wars.
The Los Angeles Lakers hold the second pick among the 30 NBA teams while the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Orlando Magic round out the top five.
Big men might dominate the early picks as Duke center Jahlil Okafor and Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis of the Spanish league, rising up many experts’ draft lists, figure to go high in the two-round draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Okafor is seen as the draft’s most polished low post scorer, but needs to improve on defense, while Porzingis is an outside shooter with the ability to protect the rim but may need to bulk up for the rigors of the NBA game.
The crop of guards features D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State, Emmanuel Mudiay, who played in China last year while awaiting his NBA eligibility, and Croatia shooting guard Mario Hezonja.
Justise Winslow, a 6-6 forward from U.S. college champions Duke, is also highly regarded.
Teams rate a prospective player’s potential against their own needs in making a pick, leaving question marks about how the first round will unfold.
Trades also tend to feature on draft night with some clubs determined to move up for a particular player with others content to slide down for a later choice while adding a veteran in return or stockpiling future picks.
There are no certainties, of course, and often a jewel of a player can be snared after the top picks.
Last season’s NBA Most Valuable Player, Stephen Curry of the league champion Golden State Warriors, was taken seventh in the 2009 draft.
Hasheem Thabeet from Tanzania and the University of Connecticut, taken second that year behind Blake Griffin, averaged 2.2 points a game in five NBA seasons and is now in the NBA Development League.
Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ prolific scorer, was taken 13th out of high school in 1996, while Michael Jordan heard Sam Bowie’s name called ahead of his by Portland before the Chicago Bulls selected him with the third pick in 1984.
Editing by Frank Pingue