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Intriguing storylines in volatile NBA Draft

(Clockwise from bottom L) D'Angelo Russell (holding Pacers hat), Justise Winsley, Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns.

NBA Draft night is Thursday and, as always, several intriguing storylines abound as the lives of young men change forever.
 
First, however, seems to provide little in the way of suspense. The Minnesota Timberwolves won the lottery and appear poised to select Kentucky big man, Karl-Anthony Towns.
 
The versatile Towns never got to show his dominating potential under John Calipari because the coach had so many weapons. But, what the Timberwolves will be getting is a big who can stretch the floor to 3-point range, protect the rim and battle on the interior.
 
With No. 1 out of the way, the draft immediately turns into must-watch television.
 
The Los Angeles Lakers own the second pick and conventional wisdom has seen them taking Duke's Jahlil Okafor. Plans may change as the Lakers have been engaged in trade talks for Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins.
 
That would be a massive deal, but it would also mean the Lakers would no longer have a need for Okafor. If the trade was to occur, LA might look at combo guard D'Angelo Russell from Ohio State.
 
With the puzzle already murky, in then walks Sam Hinkie, general manager and professional asset collector from the Philadelphia 76ers.
 
Philly has a pair of big men in place with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, but Embiid's recovery from a foot injury is not on track. With all things being equal, it would seem Hinkie should favor Russell. The Sixers need guard help and scoring, but don't count them out on the wild card of the draft, a 7- foot-1, athletic Latvian who can shoot the basketball.
 
Kristaps Porzingis has turned heads further with some amazing workouts in the United States. He would need to bulk up some, but some pundits proclaim he could be the next Dirk Nowitzki. Hinkie especially subscribes to the theory of tabbing the best player. While Porzingis isn't a great fit in Philly, he might have the most superstar potential in the draft and that sort of tantalizing prospect makes GMs swoon.
 
It might not be enough to make him the fourth pick, however. We haven't seen anything yet because at No. 4 is the New York Knicks and Phil Jackson. There may not be more pressure on any executive than Jackson, but reports state that if Towns, Okafor and Russell are all gone, the Knicks will seek to move down in the draft.
 
That would open the door for a team to jump up and snatch Porzingis from the Orlando Magic, who pick fifth and covet the Latvian stretch four. The other option for anyone in the four-five range is Emmanuel Mudiay, the other international man of mystery along with Porzingis and Austin Powers.
 
Mudiay was born in the Congo and was headed to play for Larry Brown at SMU. He instead opted to play professionally in China, but an ankle injury derailed that plan after a few games.
 
Mudiay is a physical marvel with amazing athleticism and extraordinary strength for a point guard. He's already primed to be a defensive stopper. There is one problem for Mudiay -- he's not a good shooter at all. That can be improved, intangibles can't be.
 
The remainder of the top 10 features guess work. Duke's Justise Winslow, who truly emerged during the Blue Devils' march to an NCAA championship, and Mario Hezonja, a Croatian sharp-shooter, both figure to be gone before the 10th pick.
 
A pair of Wisconsin players, Sam Dekker and national player of the year Frank Kaminsky, should hear their names called early. Same goes for a University of Kentucky trio -- Willie Cauley-Stein, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles.
 
Arizona's Stanley Johnson, Murray State's Cameron Payne and Texas' Myles Turner all have good chances at being a lottery pick.
 
As always, the NBA Draft will have surprises. Players will go too high, some will wallow in the green room too long. There's not much guessing at the top, but after the Timberwolves, this draft should be very, very interesting.

 

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