Timberwolves select Karl-Anthony Towns No. 1 overall in NBA draft

NEW YORK -- The Minnesota Timberwolves are hoping big man Karl-Anthony Towns lives up to all the hype.

The Timberwolves selected the 6-foot-11 freshman sensation out of Kentucky with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Towns, 19, who averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game in his only season with the Wildcats, was widely believed to be the top overall selection by experts heading into the draft.

"When [commissioner] Adam Silver came out, I saw him, and he said, 'With the No. 1 pick ...'[my heart] was racing," Towns said. "I told Coach Cal [John Calipari] before when he first came out that I was trying to drink water and I was shaking uncontrollably, and I told him, 'Coach, don't give me the ball right now for the last-second shot. I wouldn't make it.' I was just shocked and just extremely happy that I was able to give my parents something they can remember for the rest of their lives."

The New Jersey native is considered a highly skilled two-way threat who can affect games on both ends of the floor.

"It really was a no-brainer,'' Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders said of the decision to draft Towns.

The Timberwolves, who are in rebuilding mode, hope that Towns and last year's No. 1 pick, Andrew Wiggins, can be a formidable duo for years to come. Minnesota acquired Wiggins in the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland last summer.

Wiggins weighed in on the pick on Twitter.

Two decades ago, the Timberwolves selected Kevin Garnett fifth in the draft, and he turned into a superstar. Assuming Garnett -- who was traded back to Minnesota in February -- returns for his 21st season, he will be tasked with mentoring Towns.

"I'm just so blessed to be in this position," said Towns, who added that his main goal in the upcoming season will be helping lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs. "It just means the world to me."

It was Kentucky's third No. 1 pick in the past six years, joining Anthony Davis in 2012 and John Wall in 2010.

It didn't take long for the first surprise of the draft, as the Los Angeles Lakers passed on selecting Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor, instead taking Ohio State freshman point guard D'Angelo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick.

"I didn't know at all," Russell said on whether he knew the Lakers would select him. "I didn't know at all, man. I'm still in shock."

Okafor went No. 3 overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, where he will be paired with second-year pro Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt. Big man Joel Embiid, who had to sit out his rookie season because of injury, recently suffered a setback in his return from a broken ankle, and his return is unknown.

Embiid quickly welcomed Okafor on Twitter.

Okafor was asked how the Sixers would handle having three young bigs in terms of playing time and shots. "I don't know. It's not my job to figure out," he replied. "I'll just go there and work as hard as I can."

Okafor also said of falling to No. 3: "I can't be disappointed. I'm in the NBA living my dream."

Boos rained down from the rafters in Brooklyn as New York Knicks fans showed their displeasure over their team selecting Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 overall pick.

"Lot of fans weren't happy they drafted me," Porzingis said. "I have to do everything in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans. I was happy about it. Want to be part of this organization. The fans are harsh sometimes. That's how it is in New York, and I'm ready for it."

Croatian forward Mario Hezonja was selected by the Orlando Magic, rounding out the top five. It was just the third time two international players were selected in the top five, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It also happened in 2002 and 2011.

Hezonja, 20, has spent the past three years playing for Spain's FC Barcelona and in the Euroleague. Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said he expects Hezonja to be available to play for the 2015-16 season and has no concerns about the buyout from FC Barcelona.

Kentucky junior big man Willie Cauley-Stein was the second Wildcat to come off the board when he was taken sixth by the Sacramento Kings.

Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who played all of last season in China during his one-and-done year, went seventh to the Denver Nuggets.

Arizona freshman forward Stanley Johnson was snatched up by the Detroit Pistons at No. 8. Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky, the unanimous men's national college player of the year, was drafted at No. 9 by the Charlotte Hornets.

Duke freshman Justise Winslow, who was projected to go higher, surprisingly fell to No. 10, where the Miami Heat were happy to take him.

Myles Turner (Texas) went to the Indiana Pacers at No. 11, and Kentucky products Trey Lyles and Devin Booker went No. 12 and No. 13 to the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns, respectively.

"Obviously, it's just a good program," Cauley-Stein said of Kentucky. "It shows that a bunch of young kids can come together and still win and at the end of the day still get drafted. There's a lot of scrutiny on Coach Cal that he can't take young guys and turn them into a team and make them win and still be there for each other and get drafted and reach their dreams."

Over Calipari's first six seasons with Kentucky, 25 of 47 players have been drafted, including a record-tying four players in the lottery Thursday night.

"Results matter, and we want to win," said Calipari, who was sitting with Towns at the draft. "But not at the expense of these kids."

The draft-host Brooklyn Nets made waves late in the draft by agreeing to send Mason Plumlee and the rights to No. 41 pick Pat Connaughton to the Portland Trail Blazers for Steve Blake and the rights to No. 23 pick Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

In other draft-night trade news, the Milwaukee Bucks agreed to a deal to send No. 46 pick Norman Powell and a protected 2017 first-round pick to the Toronto Raptors for veteran guard Greivis Vasquez.

The Atlanta Hawks had the 15th pick because of a swap of first-round picks with the Brooklyn Nets resulting from the Joe Johnson trade in 2012. They selected Kansas freshman forward Kelly Oubre but sent his rights to the Washington Wizards for the No. 19 pick and two future second-round picks. The Hawks then selected guard Jerian Grant at No. 19 and agreed to send his draft rights to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr.

In another deal, the Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to send the draft rights to Duke guard Tyus Jones to the Minnesota Timberwolves for picks No. 31 (Cedi Osman) and 36 (Rakeem Christmas) and a 2019 second-round pick.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, 13 freshmen were selected in the first round this year, more than the total number of freshmen selected in all rounds combined in any previous draft (since the common draft era began in 1966). Five players who played in this year's NCAA title game were selected in the first round (Okafor, Kaminsky, Winslow, Sam Dekker, Jones), tied for third-most in the common draft era.

Information from ESPN's Darren Rovell and The Associated Press was used in this report.