For those who pushed their chips into the middle of the table and banked on the Minnesota Timberwolves keeping their first-round pick during the NBA Draft Lottery, shame on you. Sure, it’s great to be optimistic, but this is a tortured franchise that the odds said had a 27% chance of getting the top-three selection they needed to keep the pick. Instead, Minnesota landed at No. 7, yielding the pick to the Golden State Warriors as the final piece of the Andrew Wiggins/D’Angelo Russell swap.
It’s deflating to see the dreams of landing Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs get shot into oblivion, but it isn’t all bad for Minnesota. In fact, this was the best worst-case scenario for the Timberwolves.
If your first thought after reading that last sentence was to launch a profanity-laced tirade about me into your phone, it’s understandable. But hear me out.
As Mark Tatum, the deputy commissioner of the NBA, slowly plucked out one card after another to reveal the NBA draft order, it would’ve been far worse had Minnesota hopes dragged on only to be steamrolled.
Part of the DLo/Wiggins trade included a protected first-round pick from Minnesota to be sent to Golden State, but only if it landed outside the top three. It would’ve been a torture chamber of emotions to see Minnesota fans get teased all the way to No. 4 only to have the Warriors’ logo pop up. Imagine missing out on the opportunity to keep your pick by one selection. That’s nightmare fuel. Instead, the Band-Aid was ripped off relatively early in the broadcast.
And keep this in mind: As in every other NBA draft, this class of prospects has tiers. There’s almost a consensus within this draft class that there is a clear-cut top four, followed by the second tier. The top of that food chain includes Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, and Jalen Green. Then comes the next batch.
Of course, the projections and the breakdowns are often wrong, but it would’ve been much worse had the Warriors ended up with the No. 4 selection. Some would argue losing the pick is losing the pick, and while that’s fine and dandy. But the odds historically would suggest a franchise has a better chance of selecting a transcendent player somewhere in that top five. And now there will always be some link back to the Wolves for whoever the Warriors take at No. 7.
That part isn’t fun for any Timberwolves fan, but there was no winning scenario outside of Minnesota keeping the pick. But various circumstances could’ve made it more painful. The Warriors ending up with pick No. 7 is the least agonizing, at least for now.
I say for now because this is the start of the waiting game, and it will be a long one. The first step is seeing who the Warriors take with what was supposed to be Minnesota’s selection. Then everyone waits three or four or five years to see how that player pans out.
If one wanted to funnel salt into the wound, they would bring up the Warriors’ history of selecting at No. 7. Two such instances have taken place since 2009.
- In 2012, the Warriors selected Harrison Barnes with the seventh-overall pick. He had a good, solid career with Golden State and is now with the Sacramento Kings.
- In 2009, the Warriors took a scrawny point guard from Davidson, Stephen Curry. He has since revolutionized the way the game is played from the perimeter, become arguably the best shooter in league history, and will be a no-doubt, first-ballot, Hall of Fame player. Imagine passing up on that guy. Twice.
For Minnesota, this trade is now in the books. Sulk for a day and then move on. Andrew Wiggins had to go. The former No. 1-overall pick needed to be a Robin to Karl-Anthony Towns‘ Batman, and he could never elevate his game to be that. He got a more-than-questionable max contract back in 2017 after Glen Taylor praised him.
“Andrew is one of the best players in the NBA and he has the talent and work ethic to get even better and be a foundation for our franchise for many years.”
Big swing and a miss on that one.
Wiggins had to go. They got the better player in return with D’Angelo Russell, and the cost of admission included this protected first-round pick. Minnesota knew this was always a possibility, and now it has become a reality.
With a nucleus of Towns, Russell, and Anthony Edwards, the future is still bright for the Wolves. Now let’s focus on free agency and hope the Warriors whiff on the pick.