Timberwolves Jeopardizing Draft Lottery Odds by Winning More Often of Late

Photo: Will Newton – Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been the NBA’s worst team for much of the season’s second half but not recently. After a victory last night vs the Sacramento Kings, the Wolves jumped the Houston Rockets in the league standings and moved just 2.5 games away from losing their stranglehold on a top-3 spot in the NBA Draft Lottery (bottom-3 in NBA standings).

The Wolves have 13 games remaining and have won 4 of their last 6. That’s way too healthy a pace to keep up with the 4 of every 5 games (on average) that teams are losing around them. That’s why the likes of Oklahoma City (losers of 11-straight) and Orlando (1-9 in last 10) have climbed into this conversation.




Winning or Lottery

Because of how the NBA Draft Lottery is structured, the top-3 (or bottom-3) teams all have a 14% chance of landing the #1 overall pick. But, it also means that even the worst teams can fall down the board when the balls start bouncing. Losing the most games far from guarantees you a top-3 pick like it used to. In fact, the Wolves’ odds to land a top-3 pick in 2021 is 30-40% no matter where they land in the bottom-5 of the standings.

In case you’ve forgotten, the Minnesota Timberwolves will lose their pick to the Golden State Warriors if it falls out of the top-3. Obviously, you want to have the best possible odds of keeping that pick but there’s a 60%+ chance that they lose it no matter what.

Because of that, I can’t blame Gersson Rosas or Chris Finch for prioritizing W’s over what might be a 5-10% difference in the Wolves’ keeping their 2021 NBA Draft pick. Landing a top-3 pick would be worth losing more games. But upping your chances by that small of a percent isn’t.




Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan