The Minnesota Timberwolves are not among the 22 teams slated to finish the 2019-20 NBA season in Orlando starting at the end of July. But as is customary for the Timberwolves, they are looking ahead to the NBA Draft. And this year, the fate of a potential first-round pick for Minnesota hinges on the success of the Brooklyn Nets during the NBA’s restart.
Minnesota owns the rights to Brooklyn’s first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but the pick has a lottery protection. In other words, if the Nets don’t make the Eastern Conference playoffs and the pick becomes a lottery pick, they will retain it.
As it stands now, the Nets own the No. 7 seed in the East with a 30-34 record. This puts them comfortably ahead of the No. 9 seed Washington Wizards, the only team outside of the top eight in the East that is still alive for a playoff spot. The Wizards (24-40) would need quite the comeback to earn a playoff spot. The No. 8 seed Orlando Magic sit at 30-35, a half-game behind Brooklyn and five and a half games ahead of Washington.
Seems like Minnesota is in good shape, right? Well, rumors have swirled for a few weeks now about the status of guard Spencer Dinwiddie and whether he will play after testing positive for COVID-19. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving already out, Brooklyn is losing firepower quickly.
Reports on Tuesday indicated that Dinwiddie will not participate in the NBA restart.
Dinwiddie’s sublime 2019-20 season is effectively over. He averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game and served as the point guard while Irving was out with injury. That’s a lot of production that needs to be replaced to ensure that the Nets keep their playoff spot and the Timberwolves keep that first-round pick.
Of course, Brooklyn’s cushion in the East is still significant. But who knows? Maybe a hungry Washington team could make a run — although that looks a lot less likely after reports surfaced Tuesday that Bradley Beal will also be sitting out the NBA restart due to a shoulder injury.
Speaking of career seasons, Beal was in the midst of a breakout year of his own. He had single-handedly kept the Wizards alive for a playoff spot, averaging 30.5 points per game and 6.1 assists per game during the season.
The loss of Beal puts the Timberwolves in a very good spot to hold onto that first-round pick from Brooklyn. Even with Beal healthy, it would take a pretty incredible run against primarily playoff teams for the Wizards to earn a spot and kick Brooklyn out. With Beal out? It seems quite unlikely.
All indications suggest it’s in Minnesota’s best interest to get that Brooklyn pick as soon as possible. The roster turnover Minnesota endured this season vaulted the franchise into a rebuild, and president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders probably don’t want to slow down that rebuild for any reason.
Additionally, if the pick protection is transferred to next year, Brooklyn’s pick will likely be much lower in the draft. In this scenario, Durant and Irving are healthy and playing together, which makes Brooklyn a real contender in the East and probably not trying to squeeze into one of the lower playoff seeds.
This unprecedented NBA season has been full of twists and turns, and it’s even true for the Timberwolves, who find themselves rooting for D’Angelo Russell‘s former team so they can steal a draft pick. It’s worth monitoring both Brooklyn’s and Washington’s success as the 2020 season is wrapped up in Orlando and the Timberwolves try to plan for the future.