Five point three percent (a Draft Lottery preview)

Tonight is the NBA Draft Lottery, and for the Wolves, it’s an opportunity to beat long odds and move up, putting them in a powerful trading position come draft night (June 22nd). Here are a few things you need to know to prepare for what could be a very important night for Minnesota basketball.

  • Thibs/Layden, LLC has a 5.3% chance of landing the top overall pick in this year’s Draft.

The Minnesota Timberwolves franchise has had 20 opportunities to improve its lottery standing throughout the years, and has pulled it off exactly zero times. In 1990, the failure to get lucky cost them a shot at Gary Payton. In 1992, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning. In 1993, Chris Webber. In 1994, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill. In 2005, Chris Paul. In 2007, Kevin Durant. In 2009, Steph Curry (oh, wait, no, he was still available when the Wolves picked 5th and 6th, strike this sentence). In 2011, Kyrie Irving. It wasn’t until 2015 when the Wolves landed the number 1 pick (and the right to select Karl-Anthony Towns), but even then, their odds were the best. They’ve never moved up. And while they may not have been smart enough to select any of the players listed above, isn’tit possible they would’ve accidentally picked an all-time great, thus altering the course of this woebegone franchise?

I’m not sure that’s what Markelle Fultz is, but he sure as hell looks like he could be, and the people I trust on these matters seem convinced he’s a star waiting to happen. The Wolves have a 5.3% chance to land him. The odds are small, but real, and I, for one, will be glued to the results as they come in.

  • By the way, you can watch those results come in tonight at 7 PM CST on ESPN.

If you’ve never watched, let me warn you: it’s slow, there’s a lot of blather, ESPN attempts to turn what should be a two-minute event into 30 minutes of TV, and it’s irritating, but if you’ve just GOTTA KNOW AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, you’ll be fixated on the screen just like I will.

  • The Minnesota Timberwolves have an 18.3% chance of ending up in the top three.

Here’s something you don’t probably don’t want or need to see – it’s the Wolves’ lottery results since 2005:

A couple things to highlight – the Wolves moved back from 3rd (in 2008) and 9th (in 2013) and were able to extract very positive value from those moves. Moving up in the lottery to the 2nd or 3rd pick in 2017 would afford Thibs/Layden, LLC the option to do the same, especially if a team gets very thirsty for Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson or De’Aaron Fox. Now, my gut tells me the Wolves are more likely to deal the pick for a veteran than back further in the draft to acquire another rookie, but the point is, even if the Wolves don’t win the lottery, if they hit the roughly 1-in-5 chance to move up to the top three, it’ll turn a pretty good asset into an even better one.

  • Andrew Wiggins will be the Wolves’ representative at the Lottery

The former first overall pick bringing the Wolves the first overall pick would be kind of nifty.

  • Some hilarious things that can happen tonight:
  1. There is a 53.1% chance the Los Angeles Lakers will end up with a pick outside the top-3. If that happens, they will have to convey their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers as a result of the hilarious Steve Nash trade (in 2012) and a second hilarious trade involving Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Knight (in 2015). I hate the Lakers. I want them to fail. It would bring me great joy to see them fail.
  2. The Sixers ALSO have the right to swap picks with the Kings, so if Sacramento were to win the Lottery (9.9% chance of that happening) and the Sixers were to end up with the 5th pick, Philly would execute the swap and take the pick. Imagine if THAT happens, AND the Lakers fall out of the top-3… the Sixers could end up with two top-5 picks, neither of which would technically be its own. Confused? Yeah, me too. Isn’t sporps fun?
  3. The Celtics, who are in the Eastern Conference Finals, have the best odds to land the top pick. Thanks, Billy King.
  4. If the Pelicans move up to the top-3 (4.0% chance), they keep their pick, and the Kings would have to wait until next year to receive a pick for dealing away Boogie.
  5. At the very end of the lottery, there are a few teams that would make for captivating long-odds winners. Charlotte is kind of stuck (a fringe playoff team that’s capped out), and winning would be a real shot in the arm for a team without a ton of options to improve. Detroit underachieved, and Stan Van Gundy would be a real wild card armed with the first overall pick. Would he deal it away? Does he have the patience to select Fultz? Would SVG and LaVar Ball be able to co-exist (My God)? Denver has tons of great young assets; adding a top-3 pick to that would be pretty wild, too. And Miami… have you read the Wright Thompson profile of Pat Riley? Giving the old man the first pick would be fascinating, too, just to see what he’d do with it.
  • Finally, some resources:
    • If you want a concise list of picks and how they’d convey based on various lotto scenarios, click here.
    • I recommend Draft Express to everyone this time of year. It’s wonderful. 
    • If you want to know the nuts and bolts of how the drawing works, here’s a good explainer.
    • And finally, if the Wolves win the first pick, we all gather at Hubert’s late tomorrow night to laugh together about it. Three top picks in four years on the same roster? Dynasty, here we come. We’d have to drink and be merry over that.
    • 5.3%. Come on, lotto balls.
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  1. You’re not underrating Corey Brewer. But Wes Johnson has not been half the player that Brewer has been.

  2. You look at the list of failure that we had in the draft and we tend to stress the guys we should have gotten by moving up or not moving back and not the players that were still on the board when we did make a selection.

    Case in point, you praise Flip for trading Trey Burke for Baz and G. Yes, that was a better move, but the move he should have made was Giannis Antetokounmpo selected one pick after Baz and Rudy Gobert instead of G. Or just taking CJ McCollum with the pick. Certainly the Greek Freak and Gobert would have made Rubio and KLove a playoff team for years to come, but even McCollum is better than G and after this summer, Bazz is probably gone for nothing. So Flip has basically gotten Zack right (although Rodney Hood would have been a good fit too) and KAT (although Flip was seriously thinking of taking Okafor or Russell over KAT and Porzingas) He also traded a potential first round pick to bring in Adrian Payne and seconds for Tyus Jones, so I wouldn’t say Flip was a great judge of talent, just better than Kahn, which is a pretty low bar.

    Another mistake mentioned is not taking Steph. Given that you picked Rubio ahead of Curry is a mistake, but Rubio wasn’t a bad choice, it was Jonny Flynn that was the bust. If you didn’t think Curry would fit with Rubio, or that he was injury prone, DeRozen would have been a good consolation prize or if KAHN wanted another point guard, he could have taken Patty Mills in the second round instead of trading away his second pick to Detroit or taking Dwayne Ellington in the first.

    Lastly Derrick Williams. Everyone was talking about how Cleveland may want Williams instead of Irving, but I wouldn’t have wanted either. Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson would have been much better fits for the team. Sadly, with the picks we have had, making the right choice would have propelled us into elite status. Instead here we sit.

    Hopefully, this year the wolves get the gods to smile on them and they get a top three pick. The biggest thing I want is a guy that can shoot with consistency. A guy that isn’t a tweener and one that will work on his game, especially on the defensive side of the ball. If we got a choice of one of the three point guards that most say are the best players in the draft, Fultz is a one, Fox is two and trade the pick if it is Lonzo Ball at three. Rubio is as good a passer, and hasas poor a shooting form as Ball, and no dad to deal to with. Otherwise, if they get the traditional T-Wolves pick or slide, consider trading the pick to get a starter with some playoff experience and another enticement for FA to see us as a playoff contender.

  3. Once again the gods beat us down a peg. Didn’t you just have a feeling that Magic was going to keep the LA pick and the Celtics were going to be #1. Philly basically got shafted twice and we of course move back one for the umpteenth time. If Jonathan Isaac is available, maybe him or Markkanen, but I would love to make a trade with Portland, two for one. Or get a veteran starter that would make FA take notice

  4. I just don’t see them trading the pick. For all the bluster that Thibs was going to strip the team of his youth in an attempt to win now, he’s done exactly the opposite, almost to the point of frustration for a fan base hoping for more wins. With that said, whoever they get may not see the floor much the first half of the season and may not be a starter until year 3 (assuming they don’t take Monk or a PG); what they do after the draft and how much the young players are committed to winning will determine where this goes next season.