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Lottery luck: Timberwolves win NBA draft lottery for second time in franchise history

Ryan Saunders, Gersson Rosas
Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders, right, addresses the media as Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas listens during the NBA basketball team’s media day Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

D’Angelo Russell only played 12 games with the Timberwolves before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the NBA season in March, and when the NBA resumed play in the bubble at Disney World the Wolves weren’t among the 22 teams invited.

So what has Russell done for his new franchise? Not much, at least until Thursday night. Representing the Wolves in the NBA virtual draft lottery process, Russell proved to be a good luck charm as the Wolves landed the No. 1 overall pick for only the second time in franchise history. This came after the Wolves finished the shortened regular season with a 19-45 record, second-worst in the Western Conference to Golden State (15-50). The Cleveland Cavaliers (19-46, .292 winning %) were the only other team with a winning percentage worse than the Wolves (.297).

The Wolves also won the lottery in 2015, when the late Flip Saunders selected Karl-Anthony Towns with the No. 1 pick. The Wolves are now coached by Flip’s son, Ryan Saunders. The Wolves had a 14 percent chance at the top pick and a 40.1 percent chance to finish in the top three.

“I’m glad I could represent for the state of Minnesota at the draft lottery the same way we plan to show out for our fans when we get back on the court,” Russell said in a statement. “The number one pick is exciting to have, it makes me think back to when Karl and I got drafted 1,2 in the 2015 draft. There’s so much buzz and energy during the draft as a player and I really look forward to seeing what Gersson and the front office will do to build upon our 2020-21 roster with this pick. I know we’re ready to compete and I can’t wait to see who joins us next.”

Gersson Rosas, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations, likely will decide between Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball of the National Basketball League and Memphis’ James Wiseman as the top pick.

“We are excited for the possibilities ahead of us to bring in a high caliber player now that we secured the first overall selection,” Rosas said in a statement. “As a front office, we are proud of what we’ve built here in Minnesota so far and we are looking forward to continuing to build upon that foundation in this year’s draft. We know with the No. 1 pick we have the opportunity to draft an impact player who could immediately complement our young, strong core in All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns and All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell. The front office and I are prepared to get right to work with this new component for the draft and we’re confident we will be able to bring energy and excitement to our fan base with our next moves.”

Here’s the order for the Top 10 teams in the draft:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

2. Golden State Warriors

3. Charlotte Hornets

4. Chicago Bulls

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

6. Atlanta Hawks

7. Detroit Pistons

8. New York Knicks

9. Washington Wizards

10. Phoenix Suns

The draft is scheduled to be held on Oct. 20 at ESPN’s facilities in Bristol, Conn. It was originally slated to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.