Minnesota's 119-100 win over the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night was good news for building a winning culture and bad news for the Wolves' odds of keeping their 2021 NBA Draft pick.
The pick belongs to the Golden State Warriors unless it falls within the top three, all thanks to the trade that sent Andrew Wiggins to the Warriors and brought point guard D'Angelo Russell to Minnesota.
With three games left in the season, the Wolves now have the sixth-worst winning percentage in the NBA. Not long ago they had the worst winning percentage, but the Houston Rockets, Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic have all found ways to be worse.
It's becoming increasingly likely Minnesota finishes with the sixth-worst record. Finishing sixth-worst means they have a 27.6% chance at a top-three pick in the draft, whereas the three worst teams have a 40.1% chance at a top-three selection.
And top three is all that matters for Minnesota. They could land the fourth pick in the draft but still lose it to the Warriors as part of the Wiggins-Russell deal.
If the NBA Draft Lottery was held today – the actual lottery will happen June 22 – the percent chance at a top-three pick for each team would be as follows.
- Houston Rockets (16-53) - 40.1%
- Detroit Pistons (20-50) - 40.1%
- Oklahoma City Thunder (21-49) - 40.1%
- Cleveland Cavaliers (21-48) - 36.6%
- Orlando Magic ((21-48) - 31.6%
- Minnesota Timberwolves (22-47) 27.6%
The Wolves can't finish any better than sixth-worst in the NBA.
At the end of the day, even if the Wolves had finished with the worst record in the league they'd still be underdogs to keep their pick, considering there would've been a 59.9% chance they lost it to the Warriors. But finishing sixth-worst pushes the odds of the Warriors getting Minnesota's pick to 72.4%.
With lottery luck, Minnesota could head into the 2021-22 season with a core of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jared Vanderbilt and one of the top prospects in the draft: Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green or Jonathan Kuminga.
Without lottery luck, the Wolves still have a very strong core – at least that's the case if the way they've played since Chris Finch replaced Ryan Saunders as head coach. Minnesota is 15-23 under Finch, though they are 8-5 in their last 12 and 15-18 since the All-Star break.