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A draft pick in the balance

A look at how Sunday's game against Phoenix could decide the fate of this year's draft pick

So here's the deal. The Suns have a record of 40-29 and are fighting with Memphis for the last playoff spot in the West. And will be making three, possibly four, first round picks in June.

July 2012 Wolves trade Wes Johnson to PHX Suns also get first round pick
July 2013 Suns deal Luis Scola to Pacers Get Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, another first round pick
October 2013 Suns deal Marcin Gortat to Wizards Get Emeka Okafor, another first round pick

Kahn hands them a pick to get rid of his own mistake. The Suns then hire Ryan Donoughy, who hires Jeff Hornacek as head coach and gets two more picks as he clears the deck. Hornacek then turns out to be a coaching phenom, getting career years...and possibly a playoff berth...out of Goran Dragic, Gerald Green and Eric Bledsoe.

About that pick we owe Phoenix:

2014 first round draft pick from Minnesota
Minnesota's 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-13 in 2014, 1-12 in 2015 or 1-12 in 2016; if Minnesota has not conveyed a 1st round pick to Phoenix by 2016, then Minnesota will instead convey its 2016 2nd round pick and 2017 2nd round pick to Phoenix [Minnesota-New Orleans-Phoenix, 7/27/2012]

The Suns and Wolves are currently the first two teams out of the playoffs (in either conference). That puts us at the 13th pick in the draft. But if we pick 14th, then our pick goes to Phoenix, who then picks 13th and 14th.

So to put it simply, we have to finish with a worse record than the Suns to keep our pick this year.

Oh. And we play them tomorrow. FYI.

We've been over this before, but let's make sure we're clear: the Wolves have a serious balance issue on the perimeter and lack any flexibility to change that. Bazz blows up. Dieng blows up to the point Pekovic is expendable. Or we make a really good draft pick. That's it. Those are the only options. We don't have the cap space or trade assets to do it any other way.

And well. It'll be pretty hard to make a smart draft pick if we don't have a draft pick.

Now, if we take a look at vjl110's draft data (using his Expected Wins Peak model), if becomes very very clear why we want to keep that pick.

Kyle Anderson 13.4
Tyler Ennis 10.6
Gary Harris 7.6
Montrezl Harrell 5.5
James Young 5.4
Zach LaVine 4.9
Russ Smith 4.2
Rodney Hood 2.2

For comparison's sake, we'll use Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the median.

Year Player EWP score Draft Status
2013 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 5.5 Taken 8th overall
2014 Montrezl Harrell 5.5 Projected as low as 20th overall

Because of the sheer level of talent in this draft, guys who were being picked in the top 10 in previous seasons are projected late lottery this year. Sometimes not even in the lottery at all.

Year Player EWP score Drafted Year Player EWP score Projected
2013 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 5.5 8th overall 2014 James Young 5.4 as low as 25th overall
2013 Victor Oladipo 7.1 2nd overall 2014 Gary Harris 7.6 as low as 15th overall
2013 CJ McCollum 8.3 10th overall 2014 Tyler Ennis 10.1 as low as 16th overall
2013 Shabazz Muhammad 0.5 14th overall 2015 Zach LaVine 4.9 as low as 28th overall

And this doesn't even include Kyle Anderson, who has a better EWP score this year (13.4) than Nerlens Noel did last year (12.6), yet wasn't even projected in the entire first round until about 6 weeks ago, or Russ Smith, who isn't projected in the first round right now. Or Dario Saric, who is a consensus top-5 talent who might drop out of the lottery because his status with the Euro club is unclear.

The Wolves...again...badly need a competent backup point guard and an off-the-ball 2-3 who can shoot.

'Sota's five games behind the Suns and have an incredibly difficult schedule to close out the year, so it's probably unlikely we'll pass Phoenix in the standings as it is. On the other hand, Adelman is not a coach to throw games, whereas I'm betting Hornacek is, if he thinks it's best for the long run.

Last year we won a bunch of meaningless games late in the year and paid for it when we slipped past Detroit in the standings, then watched them take KCP a pick ahead of us. It would probably kill our fandom to pass the Suns and finish the year as the first team out of the playoffs, then watch them take Harris and Hood back to back at the end of the lottery.

If there is any year the Wolves cannot be without a draft pick, this is it.

(Daylight Savings Time makes no sense to Abed Nadir. Or anyone)