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NBA Draft Lottery: We’ve Been Here Before

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After a year off, the Wolves are back in the draft lottery.

2015 NBA Draft Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

NBA Draft Lottery
7:30 pm CDT
ESPN

Ah, the sweet smell of ping pong balls. After a year away, the Wolves areh back in the familiar environs of the NBA Draft Lottery. Veteran Wolves fans know what this is all about: Spend all day hoping for good luck, only to be disappointed in the end.

...And I’m back from a 1992 draft rabbit hole. That was the year the Wolves finished with the worst record in the NBA, but slid to third in the lottery. The first two picks were Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning. The Wolves took Christian Laettner. So yeah, that was rough.

Some 1992 draft facts:

  • Laettner actually wound up with the 5th most career win shares among drafted players that year, behind Shaq and ‘Zo, and also 11th pick Robert Horry and second rounder P.J. Brown.
  • I remember I was convinced Harold Miner was going to be a star.
  • That class wound up generating several players who wound up playing significant roles with the Wolves: In addition to Laettner, Tom Gugliotta, Malik Sealy (RIP), Anthony Peeler, and Latrell Sprewell were all 1992 first round picks.

The next year, the Wolves had the second worst record, but dropped to fifth in the lottery, and wound up with J.R. Rider, missing out on Chris Webber and Penny Hardaway. The less said about that draft the better probably, other than to say that 24th overall pick Sam Cassell would play a key part in the Wolves best season more than a decade later.

While 1992 is the most famous Wolves Lottery disappointment, 1994 was rough as well. Tied for the second worst record, the Wolves wound up with the fourth pick. Second and third were Jason Kidd and Grant Hill, while the Wolves picked Donyell Marshall, who had a fine career, but was not either of those guys.

Anywho, I really didn’t mean to go down that path of history, but there you have it. The Wolves are back at it tonight, with Gersson Rosas representing them on stage in Chicago.

This season, the NBA changed the odds in a failed attempt to stop teams from tanking. Now, each of the three worst teams have a 14 percent shot at the top pick, whereas in recent years, the worst team has had a 25 percent shot at it. Furthermore, they are drawing for the top four spots as opposed to the top three as has been past practice.

The Wolves had the 10th worst record this season, which means they are given a three percent chance at the top pick, and a 14 percent chance of landing a top four pick. Here is the order with each team’s shot at Zion Williamson:

Knicks 14%
Cavaliers 14%
Suns 14%
Bulls 12.5%
Hawks 10.5%
Wizards 9%
Mavericks 6%
Grizzlies 6%
Pelicans 6%
Wolves 3%
Lakers 2%
Hornets 1%
Heat 1%
Kings 1%

The Mavericks pick goes to the Hawks if it winds up outside the top five.

The Grizzlies pick goes to the Celtics if it is outside the top eight.

The Kings pick goes to the Celtics unless it’s the top overall pick, in which case it goes to Philadelphia.

This year, the most interesting picks, and perhaps a good early test for Rosas, are the third and fourth picks. The top two seem fairly obvious to me (Williamson and Ja Morant,) but the next two are much tougher. R.J. Barrett seems a consensus top three guy, but I’m not convinced. Does Rosas have the guts to go away from consensus, either to trade the pick or take someone else. Or maybe Barrett is the right guy, I’m no draft prognosicator.

At the fourth spot, do you take what seems a bigger risk on a guy like Darius Garland or Sekou Doumbouya, or do you play it “safe” with a college wing like Jarrett Culver?

Most likely, of course, the Wolves stay at 10. We don’t know what their options will be at that spot, but finding value will be an early test for the new front office.

Anyway, we’ll know more this evening.

And oh yeah, after the lottery there is an actual basketball game—the Blazers are in Oakland to start off the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors.

Enjoy.