Wolves getting hot could put NBA Draft Lottery chances at risk

There's a big difference between finishing with the third-worst record and the sixth-worst record.
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Karl-Anthony Towns

Don't look now, but the Timberwolves have been playing like a formidable NBA team since Chris Finch replaced Ryan Saunders as head coach. That's good news for the future, but not ideal if the Wolves hope to keep their 2021 first-round draft pick. 

Minnesota only keeps the 2021 first-rounder if it's in the top three. If the lottery balls don't bounce their way June 22 and they wind up with any pick other than 1, 2 or 3, it will go to the Golden State Warriors as part of the Andrew Wiggins-D'Angelo Russell trade. 

Entering play Wednesday, Minnesota has the third-worst record in the NBA at 19-44, but Detroit, Oklahoma City and Cleveland are all breathing down their neck for draft positioning. 

Teams with the three worst records have a 40.1% of landing a top-three pick; the fourth-worst has a 36.6% chance to land in the top three; and the fifth- and sixth-worst records have 31.6% and 27.6% chance, respectively. 

The Wolves are 8-8 since March 31 and an even more impressive 5-2 in their last seven games. The scary part for fans is that Finch says the Wolves won't rest players over the final nine games, instead looking to build chemistry for the future. 

Developing chemistry in the immediate term could benefit next season, but it could also cost them a chance to draft Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley or one of the other top prospects, perhaps Jalen Green or Jonathan Kuminga. 

Imagine the nightmare scenario where the Wolves have no pick in the draft and they have to watch the Warriors add Cunningham, Suggs or Mobley to a roster that already has the best shooter on the planet (Steph Curry) and will be getting Klay Thompson back from injury. 

Minnesota's core of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley certainly bodes well for the future, but imagine how strong the roster would look if Minnesota keeps the pick. 

Minnesota's 19 wins are tied with Detroit and just two fewer than Oklahoma City and Cleveland, and all three of those teams have played fewer games than the Wolves so they could easily finish with a worse record by season's end. 

Ironically, the Wolves play the Warriors Thursday night. Winning that one really wouldn't be in the best interest of the franchise. 

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