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NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

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Better Late Than Never: Timberwolves Get Much Needed Lottery Luck After Dismal Season

After a long season, winning the first-overall pick in the draft brings reason for excitement.

Let’s be honest — the 2020 Minnesota Timberwolves season was extremely unenjoyable. Their 19-45 record was second-worst in the West, only behind Golden State’s 15-50 mark. The next closest team to the Wolves within their conference had eleven more wins. Had the Warriors not missed Klay Thompson or Steph Curry for the season, we might be talking about how the Wolves finished with the league’s worst record.

This season felt like the Timberwolves searching in vain for their identity. President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas brought in ten new players to begin the season. When that roster didn’t work out, Rosas turned it over again at the deadline (in total, 24 different players suited up for the team). Of that large batch of players, at least D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Juancho Hernangomez figure to be long-term fixtures on the roster.

Yet, this still didn’t feel like a fresh start. This is in large part because Karl-Anthony Towns was some combination of hurt, unhappy, or suspended all season. Towns is this team’s best player and having him around the new additions could have redeemed this season. Considering Towns began the season averaging 32 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks per game, it’s disappointing the injuries robbed him of playing time.

Oh, great. Another stupid Draft Lottery.

The 2020 season seemed like a thickening malaise over this franchise that began with Jimmy Butler’s trade request and worsened with each milestone. So, when Thursday’s draft lottery came, why wouldn’t there be more of the same? After all, the Wolves had the league’s third-worst record and while they were in a three-way tie for best odds of a top-3 pick, their odds of not having a top pick were greater. Consider that:

  • There was a 47.8 percent chance the Wolves came away with the 5-7 pick.
  • They had a nearly 60 percent chance at dropping overall.
  • Their highest probable pick was sixth, which they had a 26 percent chance of landing.

Since this is a franchise that never moved up in the lottery, expecting them to finally strike gold and move up to one (especially with the direction the rest of the season went) seemed unrealistic.

And then, in just a few brief moments of televised envelope opening, their luck quickly changed.

Not only did the Timberwolves finally move up in the lottery, they moved up to the first-overall pick. When they won the lottery back in 2015 (under the old format), they technically possessed sole leadership of the best odds, so it was more about “defending their position” rather than “moving up.”

But on Thursday night, the Wolves needed to finally achieve something they had never done before — get lucky and improve their current draft position. In the midst of yet another downturn for the franchise, the team finally notched a banner-worthy franchise milestone (for them, at least).

Have I told you how I love the NBA Draft Lottery?

Whether this draft is okay, bereft of all talent, or once-in-a-generation, this is the type of win the Timberwolves so badly needed. This fan base needed something to get excited about and having the first-overall pick is perfect (acquiring Russell was, of course, a significant change as well). If Russell and Towns are the first two pieces, finding a legit third piece in this draft could drastically alter the trajectory of the franchise going forward.

What the team does with the pick remains to be seen. All Rosas would confirm on Thursday morning, essentially, is they would participate in the draft. There will be mock drafts, trade machine screenshots, and plenty of debate leading up to the draft.

For the first time in a while, there’s real, genuine excitement for this franchise. If you were to look for a way to build on the momentum of the Russell trade, winning the lottery six months later would be near the top of the list.

Everything appeared to rapidly be going downhill after the Timberwolves’ last playoff berth back in 2018, but with the latest results from the NBA Lottery on Thursday night, it may appear like this franchise’s fortunes are finally turning.