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Mock Draft Simulator: The Timberwolves' Possibilities

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Even a random number generator can give us some valuable information about a team's (potential) valuation of draft prospects. Who does Chad Ford's mock draft simulator think the Timberwolves will draft?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Like many of us, I've spent my fair share of time clicking through Chad Ford's mock draft and lottery simulator (via ESPN) to see which of the potential high-value prospects the Minnesota Timberwolves might end up with, depending on how the ping-pong balls fall later this year. However, the more I clicked through the lottery, the more interesting trends I noticed, so I started taking some notes!

The Data

In total, I ran the simulator 50 times, and took notes of both the team and player selected for the first six picks (the Wolves never fell below 6, and very rarely fell below 5). If you're interested in the data, here's the spreadsheet as a Google Doc. If you'd like access to it to mess with the data, send me an e-mail and I can get you a copy.

Team Okafor or Team Towns?

In all fifty runs, either Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns was selected first overall. Both could slip below the second pick, depending on how teams sorted out, but one of the two was always the first player chosen. Even more interestingly, the split was dead even: 25 times Okafor was first, 25 times Towns was first. The teams were split as follows:

Team Okafor Team Towns
Celtics 76ers
Hawks Kings
Hornets Suns
Knicks Timberwolves
Lakers
Nuggets
Pistons
Thunder

Okafor fell to the third pick three times, all three times because the 76ers took Emmanuel Mudiay over him at #2. Towns fell to third three times and fourth once, all four times because the Pistons like D'Angelo Russell more than any other team and took him at #2 a couple of times. Really, though, Ford's data confirms what's been a pretty consistent theory: one of Okafor or Towns will go first overall, and which one depends on which team has that first pick.

The Guards: Mudiay and Russell

Emmanuel Mudiay and D'Angelo Russell are the smaller men in a draft where four of the top six picks (almost always) play the 4 or 5. Some teams appear to value Mudiay very highly and would take him as high as the second overall pick, and none of the three are surprises looking at their point guard situation: Knicks, 76ers, and Lakers. Only one team let him slip below number four, though: your Minnesota Timberwolves. Six times, the Timberwolves had the fourth pick with Okafor, Towns and Russell off the board, and each time they took Kristaps Porzingis over Mudiay. They appear to be the only team to prioritize Porzingis over Mudiay in Ford's simulation, which is an interesting thing to consider. The Timberwolves did not draft Mudiay in any of the fifty simulations. Russell's data was far more consistent: as noted above, the Pistons were the only team to take him with the second pick, and every other time he was either third or fourth.

The Next Tier: Porzingis, Cauley-Stein and Looney

This one's pretty simple. As noted above, the Timberwolves were the only team involved in the simulation to value Kristaps Porzingis over Mudiay. Every single other simulation, he was the fifth overall pick (44/50). Willie Cauley-Stein landing at sixth overall was just as consistent, also hitting 44/50 times. Those three times are the situations that reminded me that I could be a lot more worried about this draft lottery if I was a Lakers fan. The 76ers were the only team to pass on Cauley-Stein in favor of Kevon Looney, and that because this was their second pick of the top six, courtesy of that top-5 protected Lakers pick. They chose Looney at 6 no matter who they had gotten with their first pick.

The Timberwolves' Big Board

Based on all the above simulations, Ford pretty clearly has the Timberwolves' top-six board as:

  1. Karl-Anthony Towns
  2. Jahlil Okafor
  3. D'Angelo Russell
  4. Kristaps Porzingis
  5. Emmanuel Mudiay
  6. Willie Cauley-Stein

Now, obviously one of the top three prospects on that list would be the most ideal, with Towns and Russell the most likely (and most sought-after on these pages) to land in Minnesota. The Wolves only drafted Okafor four times out of the fifty simulations. Regardless of pick, here's how many times the Wolves ended up with each player:

Player Times Drafted
Towns 16
Porzingis 16
Russell 11
Okafor 4
Cauley-Stein 3
Mudiay 0

That's over a 50% chance at either Towns or Russell. Add in Okafor and it's over 60%. Those are odds that, while by no means 100%, are something I'm far more comfortable looking at than trying to bank on the first overall pick. (And let the record show: the Wolves got the first overall pick seven times out of 50 (14%, right around their given odds of 15.9%))

Nothing in draft season is sure, and no prospect will ever be a home run. And obviously Ford's projections aren't the law, they're just a random number generator with some information put in. But, concrete numbers are better than wishing on a ping-pong ball.