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Wolves sprinting towards high pick in NBA Draft

Finishing with one of the three-worst records is best for NBA Draft Lottery chances.
Author:
Ryan Saunders

A revamped roster featuring point guard D'Angelo Russell hasn't resulted in more wins for the slumping Timberwolves, who are without franchise star Karl-Anthony Towns because of a fractured wrist that will keep him out at least another two weeks. 

At 16-39 entering play Monday, the Wolves own the NBA's third-worst record and with only six wins since Thanksgiving, they're in a dead sprint coming down the stretch in the race for the best odds in the NBA Draft Lottery. 

Only the Warriors (12-45) and the Cavaliers (15-41) are worse, with the Knicks (17-39) and Hawks (17-41) also flirting with the bottom of the NBA standings. 

FiveThirtyEight's simulation tool projects Minnesota to finish with a final record of 25-57. Considering the Wolves have won just six of 37 games since starting the season 10-8, any projection that suggests they're going to win nine of their remaining 27 games is laughable. 

Unfortunately, the 2020 NBA Draft is considered extremely weak, both in high-end talent and in depth, so landing a top-three pick may be critical if the Wolves hope to add an impact player. 

That's where finishing with one of the three worst records is key. The teams with the three-worst records each get a 52.1% chance of getting a top-four pick via the lottery, and each have a 14% chance at getting the No. 1 pick. 

The team that finishes with the fourth-worst record has a 48.1% chance at a top-four pick and a 12.5% shot at the top pick. Fifth-worst gets a 42.1% shot at landing in the top four and a 10.5% chance at the No. 1 pick. The chances continue to decrease from there. 

Most importantly, perhaps, is that the lottery only decides the order of the top-four picks. Picks 5-14 are determined by win-loss record. 

A top-three pick would give Minnesota a chance to draft George shooting guard Anthony Edwards, who is projected my most experts to be the top available player, along with the likes of center James Wiseman, point guard LaMelo Ball, 6-foot-8 combo forward Deni Avdija or Auburn small forward Isaac Okoro, who might be the best wing defender in the draft. 

Keep in mind that Minnesota also owns Brooklyn's 2020 first-round pick, so long as Brooklyn makes the playoffs. If the Nets miss the playoffs and wind up in the lottery, the Wolves won't get their pick until 2021.

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