The Timberwolves draft history is littered with tough luck and misery, slapstick and lunacy.
They’ve messed up one-car parades some years.
On Thursday, they aimed big and hit the bull’s-eye. The night ended better than anyone could have anticipated, perhaps even by the man running the show, Flip Saunders, who nailed a Daily Double:
The No. 1 overall pick and a savvy point guard? A two-way big man and a proven winner? An elite defensive player and a popular local kid guaranteed to sell tickets?
No wonder Wolves officials looked as if they had hit the jackpot late Thursday night.
In selecting Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns with the No. 1 overall pick, Saunders made the smart choice, the logical choice, the necessary choice.
Then, a surprise. Saunders used his second-round assets to orchestrate a trade with Cleveland to nab Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones, a local hero since middle school.
“I couldn’t have written my story any better,” Jones said.
Same thing applies to an organization that’s suffered through too many ugly drafts. The Wolves had never been in this position, owners of the No. 1 pick.
Saunders faced a multiple-choice decision that had no wrong answers, but one that made more sense than the others.
He got it right.
Without a crystal ball, nobody can declare with certainty right now, or even a year from now, whether Towns will have a better pro career than Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, the other two options in the Big Three conversation.
That verdict won’t be known for some time.
But Towns represents an ideal fit in an organizational blueprint that is beginning to take shape and inspire belief that a nucleus of Towns, Andrew Wiggins and a young, promising supporting cast might actually lead somewhere fruitful.
Why Towns over Okafor and Russell? Defense, primarily.
Towns is one of the best defenders in the draft. The Timberwolves were the worst defensive team in the NBA this season. That’s called addressing a glaring need.
Saunders already has a point guard in Ricky Rubio, but he couldn’t pass on the opportunity jump up and take Jones once he began to slide.
“I knew Flip Saunders was talking to teams on possibly making a trade happen,” Jones said.
Jones watched the draft with family, friends and Apple Valley supporters at Bar 508 in downtown Minneapolis.
The Houston Rockets reportedly had Jones on their radar at No. 18. They passed. The Chicago Bulls reportedly were interested at No. 22. They passed.
Suddenly, the Jones-to-the-Wolves dream began to percolate. Jones felt it. Wolves fans felt it.
Saunders worked the phones in search of a trade partner, a homecoming that didn’t seem realistic when the night began.
And then, bingo. Saunders called Jones’ agent, Rob Pelinka, who passed the phone to Jones.
Seated on a couch, Jones took the call and then buried his head in his lap, tears filling his eyes.
His dream had come true.
“He told me that I’m going to be Timberwolf,” Jones said. “Reality hit me.”
Jones woke up a month ago with a weird feeling in his stomach. He told his older brother, Jadee, that he had a sense that he’d end up with his hometown team by the end of draft night.
The same feeling hit again Thursday as he waited to hear his name announced. Once he did and realized he’s staying home, emotions poured out of the kid who always looks so cool and composed with a basketball in his hands.
“I knew I would be emotional whenever I heard my name called,” he said. “But that’s just ultimate. To say I’m a Timberwolf, there’s nothing better.”
The Wolves remain a young team that will experience more growing pains, but a foundation of Towns, Wiggins, Rubio, Jones, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad makes sense now. That’s a solid foundation to build upon.
“They have a great young nucleus,” Jones said. “I’m just excited that I can be a part of a talented team that’s up and coming.”
The Wolves knew they would add one piece to that puzzle when the day began. The second piece gave them a surprise ending worth remembering, not another one to lament.