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Recent Bubble Dropouts Help Wolves

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Recent league activity is good news for the Timberwolves’ draft position.

NBA: New York Knicks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Let me be very clear when I say that we never, ever, under any circumstances root for a player to be injured, and that’s especially true when the player is someone as awesome as Bradley Beal. The reality of the situation, though, is that Beal’s recent decision to rehab his nagging shoulder injury all but assures that Minnesota will end up getting Brooklyn’s first-round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

To put it bluntly, Beal had been carrying a monstrous load for the Washington Wizards this year, and he was doing an admirable job of it. Beal was operating at a crazy usage rate of 34.4%, and was still able to maintain a TS% of .579 on his way to averaging 30/4/6. He was seriously putting that offense on his back, and truthfully playing a role that is over-sized for his still out-of-this-world talent level.

The reasons that this is (obviously) very beneficial for Minnesota are two-fold.

For one, it very clearly makes Washington worse, and when you add in the fact that Davis Bertans is also opting-out, the Wizards will be without their two best players in Orlando.

The second reason is that the Brooklyn Nets have a remarkable amount of players opting-out (for good reason), including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Nic Claxton, and Spencer Dinwiddie. For a while, it was looking like Brooklyn might struggle to maintain their playoff footing.

Now, in order for there to even be a chance of the Brooklyn pick not conveying, not only do the Nets have to finish two games worse than Washington in the eight seeding games, they then would need to drop two games in a row to Washington after that. While that is all certainly possible, it’s hard to imagine Washington goes much better than 2-6 in the seeding games, and even that is probably generous considering the competition they’re playing.

While Brooklyn will be similarly starved for wins, one would think that the likes of Caris Levert, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen could pick up a win or two for Brooklyn. Brooklyn has two games against Orlando, one against Sacramento, as well as one seeding game against Washington. Even if they aren’t able to beat anyone else, all Minnesota likely needs is for Brooklyn to beat the Wizards once in three potential matchups, taking the one seeding game and two potential elimination games.

The fun part is that by writing this, I’ve all but assured that the Nets will go 0-8 in the seeding games while Washington finds two wins in the seeding games and then sweeps the Nets in the elimination games, therefore sending Brooklyn to the lottery.

That would be a massive bummer.

While this draft isn’t viewed as particularly strong in the starpower department, most of the time the draft is a crapshoot anyways, and having as many darts to throw as at the board as possible is always a good thing. In fact, it feels like these are generally the types of drafts where the best player may emerge as someone drafted in the late-lottery or mid-first-round.

Are the Wolves likely to find the next Kawhi or Giannis right outside the lottery? Absolutely not. The chances of that are laughably slim. You still want the chance to get another cheap difference maker, especially for a team that’s already likely to be operating as an over-the-cap team for the forseeable future given how much money is (or will be) tied up in Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley.

On a more serious note, I’m not really sure what the point is of the NBA bringing Washington to the bubble at all. Sure, they were included in the original plan (also unsure about that decision), but they are 5.5 games back with 8 to play. In a normal world, that’s what we would call an insurmountable deficit. Instead, we’re going to bring a full organization’s worth of players and staff into this “bubble” that really have no business being there.

Nevertheless, you can never have too much draft ammo, and the choices of certain players to opt-out of the Orlando bubble has helped Minnesota (hopefully) secure an additional first-round pick.