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Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor and good lesser-known players top NBA draft

Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns drives to the basket past Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky in Final Four. (Associated Press)
Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns drives to the basket past Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky in Final Four. (Associated Press)
Brian Mahoney Associated Press

NEW YORK – Karl-Anthony Towns hoisted a child high up toward his shoulders, letting the youngster at an NBA community service event feel what it was like to rock the rim with a dunk.

Next up for Towns might be trying to help lift the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The center from Kentucky is considered the likely No. 1 pick Thursday night in the NBA draft, though he said he isn’t sure and doesn’t seem concerned.

“I don’t know right now. Only thing I can control is making sure I’m the best player I can possibly be for whatever organization drafts me tomorrow night,” Towns said Wednesday.

Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor are the big bodies from the powerhouse programs, good bets to be the first two picks even at a time when small ball is becoming increasingly popular.

Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell could be the first guard off the board, and Kristaps Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay are some of the lesser-known names that should be called quickly by commissioner Adam Silver at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Okafor, who led Duke to the national championship, and Towns had been rated evenly at one point, though Towns has moved to the top of the list in most mock drafts. Okafor said he has seen some of them and said “they’re all pretty accurate, I guess,” and isn’t bothered by the idea of being considered second-best.

“I’m still going to be top five or whatever the case may be and I’ll still be living my dream of playing in the NBA, so I’ll be excited either way,” he said.

That’s partly because of who – or, perhaps more specifically, where – comes next.

The Los Angeles Lakers hold the No. 2 pick, Philadelphia is third and the New York Knicks follow, providing big-market appeal that would make for a good consolation prize.

“Two is not bad, being in Los Angeles,” Okafor said. “Neither is being in Philly. Especially not being in New York.”

The head of the class should again be a collegiate one-and-done, as Towns, Okafor and Russell all played just one season. The last five No. 1 picks have all been freshmen.

Teams preferring more experience will be able to find it in players such as Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein, who played three years, and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, who was the national player of the year in leading the Badgers to the NCAA championship game as a senior.

Mudiay was originally slated to attend SMU last season but instead signed to play in China, averaging 18 points in 12 games for the Guangdong Southern Tigers. Porzingis has played the last 2 1/2 years for Seville of Spain’s ACB, one of the best leagues in the world.

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