NEW YORK (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves got their man in the middle. The Lakers got a playmaking partner for Kobe Bryant.
Knicks fans just got mad.
Minnesota selected Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns with the first pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night, the first of three straight freshmen chosen before New York chose Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis, triggering loud, long boos from their fans inside Barclays Center.
The Timberwolves went for a center in their first time owning the No. 1 pick. They can add him to a young roster featuring Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, who was picked first last year by Cleveland and later dealt to Minnesota in the Kevin Love trade.
The Los Angeles Lakers then took guard D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State, who was wearing a red jacket, bowtie and shoes that matched the Buckeyes’ school colors.
The 6-foot-11 Towns averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in just 21 minutes per game, as Kentucky used a platoon system in winning its first 38 games and reaching the Final Four.
The New Jersey native said he had above 50 family and friends in attendance.
“This is home to me,” he said. “Been able to come here and have all my closest friends and love ones come out here. It’s the most special moments in my life.”
It was Kentucky’s third No. 1 pick in the last six years, joining Anthony Davis in 2012 and John Wall in 2010. The Wildcats were hoping to have a record seven players picked and had their second player selected when Sacramento took center Willie Cauley-Stein with the sixth pick.
It was the sixth straight year a freshman was the No. 1 pick. Russell also played just one year in college.
For weeks, Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor had been considered the top two selections. But the Lakers instead decided on backcourt help with a player who can step right in and play alongside Bryant in what could be the superstar’s final season.
“Kobe’s a great dude,” Russell said. “Not knowing how much he has left in the tank is the scary thing. I’m really looking forward to him taking me under his wing if possible and feed me the most knowledge he can and use that as fire against my opponents.”
Okafor fell to the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3, becoming the 19th lottery selection and 29th first-round pick — most in NCAA history — under coach Mike Krzyzewski. Those numbers increased when Miami drafted Justise Winslow 10th.
The Knicks ended the run of one-and-dones when they took Porzingis with the No. 4 pick. The 19-year-old forward had been surging up draft boards but Knicks fans, who haven’t forgotten the drafting of Frederic Weis and were underwhelmed by the acquisition of Andrea Bargnani, wanted no part of him, booing lustily after his name was called by Commissioner Adam Silver.
“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.”
Another international player followed, as Orlando took Croatian Mario Hezonja at No. 5. Detroit took Arizona’s Stanley Johnson eighth before national player of the year Frank Kaminsky went to Charlotte at No. 9.