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Wolves Winning 2015 Draft Lottery Was A Memorable Night For More Reasons Than We Knew

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager


Time sure does fly, but sometimes, you wish it wouldn't.

Five years ago, on May 19, 2015, the Timberwolves won the 2015 NBA Lottery.

This set up Flip Saunders and the team to select Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns with the No. 1 pick. 

Although, at this time, there was some steam that Jahlil Okafor could go first. 

The night was a truly special one for a variety of reasons. Of course, for the team, it was huge. Towns has become a cornerstone player. His 50.4 win shares during his career are almost double the next highest player from this draft class (Montrezl Harrell has 26.2). 

What we didn’t know is that it would be one of the last memories we’d have of Flip. In October later that year, Saunders passed away after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  

This video below exemplifies the passion Flip had for this team: 

Saunders was especially emotional speaking with media members after the team had secured the No. 1 pick. He had lost his father, Walter, a week before the lottery. Flip thought just maybe his dad had something to do with the ping pong balls falling in the Timberwolves’ favor.

“He was a huge fan of the Timberwolves. The funny thing about my dad is when I would take jobs in Detroit and I went to Washington, I’d come home and he’d still be wearing a Minnesota Timberwolves shirt,” Saunders said. “I couldn’t get him to change shirts. He always wanted to keep the Timberwolves shirt on. Maybe because that was my first job and I was here so long, but  he was a huge fan and I can remember two months ago when he was watching games and we would talk. He would say you just  gotta build and hope you get another good player. Maybe he had something to do with it. As I said to our guys, ‘My dad . . . and I have luck. It was a great day.’”

About a month later at the draft in Brooklyn, Towns got off the phone with Saunders. 

His first words, “I love him already!”

It didn’t take long for Saunders and Towns to form a bond. Unfortunately, it didn’t last as long as it should have.

This lottery gave the Timberwolves the No. 1 pick, but in retrospect, the night was a lot bigger than that.


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