Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where it’s always good to prepare for things that never happen. Let’s get to it:
*Suggesting the Timberwolves might move up from their current No. 10 spot in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery is an exercise that ignores 30 years of terrible history. As fans of the franchise are well aware, it has never happened. And they’ve had PLENTY of chances to move up as a franchise that has spent roughly two-thirds of its existence out of the playoffs and in the drawing.
But here’s an interesting thing to consider for Tuesday’s drawing: The Wolves could move up into the top 4 and still not walk away feeling thrilled on all counts.
Now, obviously if the Wolves move into the No. 1 spot and have the chance to draft Zion Williamson, there will be an all-night kegger at Target Center (or some such thing). Even moving up to No. 2, with the chance to draft possible franchise point guard Ja Morant from Murray State, would be a boon.
But there’s still a big drop-off between Williamson and Morant. And there’s another drop-off between Morant and the rest of the draft prospects, at least in terms of initial projections and value. There doesn’t seem to be much difference, in fact, between the projected No. 3 pick (possibly Duke’s R.J. Barrett) and the possible No. 10 pick (maybe Duke’s Cameron Reddish).
So if the Wolves wound up with the No. 3 or No. 4 pick — not likely but increasingly possible with this year’s changed NBA lottery odds — there might not be a ton of value gained. But there would be a cost increase.
Because picks fit neatly into salary slots, per the NBA rookie scale contracts, we know that the No. 3 pick, for instance, can get as much as $7.83 million next season at the maximum end of his draft slot. The No. 10 pick, the most likely place the Wolves will select, can get $4.24 million. That’s a difference of $3.6 million next season and it will be close to $15 million over the course of four years.
(Dane Moore has a good chart of all the possible places the Wolves could wind up picking and the corresponding max money for that draft slot).
For the salary cap-strapped Wolves, who will be have two players (Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins) on max contracts next season plus a host of others that will already push them to the top of the cap and into the luxury threshold, that $3.6 million could be significant.
And that’s before they find out whether Towns’ salary next season will jump by more than $5 million if he is named to an all-NBA team. Williamson or Morant at No. 1 or No. 2 would be even more expensive, but the upside would outweigh the cost. And at the end of the day, any team would still want the No. 3 or No. 4 vs. No. 10 pick as an asset.
But it would be VERY Wolves-esque if they finally moved up in the lottery this year, only to jump to a spot that doesn’t give them much bang for the buck and actually might hurt their ability to sign other players.
*Maybe you care that the Cavaliers hired John Beilein as their head coach. It is an interesting move, to say the least, that a 66-year-old college coach would bolt Michigan for a rebuild in the NBA. But don’t tell that to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. You’ll just get yelled at.
*Glen Perkins in a suit? Glen Perkins in a suit.