NBA Draft Lottery
It is strangely befitting that the NBA Lottery directly follows the presentation of Karl-Anthony Towns unanimous Rookie of the Year award. Last year, we were holding our breath to find out if the Timberwolves would hold onto the first overall pick. It was a terrifying situation, as Flip Saunders seemed enamored with Jahlil Okafor as well as extremely intrigued by Kristapas Porzingis (who we knew almost nothing about at the time). Towns seemed like the unanimous choice at the top of the draft, but it all came down to the bounce of a couple hundred ping pong balls whether or not the Wolves would actually get the chance to draft him.
We, of course, have seen the future that the lottery last year held. Towns had one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory, Porzingis would have been an excellent choice if the Wolves had fallen, and Okafor (who may still potentially be a quality player) would have been difficult to build around in conjunction with the current Wolves core. It is unlikely that we would be in such an exciting place with perhaps the most promising young core in league if we did not retain the number one pick and draft Karl-Anthony Towns. Going even further back, if the Cleveland Cavaliers did not jump up to first draft spot, it is unlikely that the Wolves would have traded Kevin Love to Cleveland. That lottery result may have even been part of LeBron's decision to leave Miami and return to Cleveland.
What is exceedingly clear is that the fate of franchises hangs in the balance tonight. Being cognizant of the importance of maximizing one's chances at landing a top pick, or several, is what has led to one of the most controversial methods of running an organization in sports, i.e. tanking.
Several teams could feel the brunt of this element of chance tonight as the ordering of the draft may completely change the future of their franchise. If the Lakers fall out of the top three picks, they will forfeit their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. This would be a great boon to the new 76ers' front office as they would reap the rewards of Sam Hinkie's tanking method and trade maneuvering, but it would be disastrous to the Lakers as they don't truly have enough star quality young players to build around, nor likely attract premium free agents.
The Celtics are certainly hoping that Brooklyn moves up in the draft, as they are searching for the "star" player to complement their already playoff-competitive team. While the Pelicans and Suns are searching for a direction.
The Wolves do not have as much hanging in the balance this evening. If the Wolves move up in the draft to a top three pick there will be cause for celebration as that makes drafting decision much easier. If we have a top two pick, draft either Simmons or Ingram, and if we land at pick three then likely draft Bender. From there on out, as has become clear in our discussions about the draft, things are much much murkier. The Wolves will also be looking to potentially trade our pick, maybe in conjunction with a player, to build up our bench or target another piece to complement the current core.
It will be exciting for sure, but I am personally thankful that we aren't on the edges of our seats wondering which direction our franchise will go and either praising or cursing the ping pong balls. It's certainly a nice place to be at.
So pray to your gods, the old and the new, and hopefully we will see the Timberwolves move up in the draft for the first time in franchise history, but don't be too disappointed if the Wolves remain in place, leaving a more complicated decision. As Towns took the stage yesterday to accept his unanimously voted Rookie of the Year award, it just showed that we've already won the lottery before it has even begun.