One of the first tests for Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas will be — how lucky is he?
Rosas is set to represent the Wolves in Chicago at Tuesday’s draft lottery, the annual event in which the future of several franchises hinge on the fate of pingpong balls.
The good thing for the Wolves — who finished 36-46, the 10th-worst record in the league — is that this year the NBA has enacted changes it passed for the lottery in September 2017. It flattened the odds at the top so that the worst three teams each have a 14% chance of the top pick. Under the old rules, the worst team had a 25% chance of landing the top pick.
Previously, teams near the back end of the lottery only had a chance to jump into the top three. Now they could jump into the top four, and the odds the Wolves have give them at least a puncher’s chance of doing that.
They will enter Tuesday with 13.9% odds of jumping into the top four, which includes a 3% chance of landing the top pick. That’s assumed to be Duke’s Zion Williamson, a potential franchise-altering talent.
You could forgive Wolves fans if they’re a little cynical about the chances of jumping six spots or more because the Wolves have never moved up even one spot in the lottery in their history. They’ve fallen back on multiple occasions, perhaps most famously in 1992 when they entered the lottery with the best odds of landing the No. 1 pick but slipped to third — missing out on picking Shaquille O’Neal (No. 1) or Alonzo Mourning (No. 2) and instead getting Christian Laettner.
The best they have done is kept the No. 1 pick and drafted Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015 after finishing that season with the league’s worst record.
The Wolves have a 3.3, 3.6 and 4% chance of landing the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 picks respectively, according to the website tankathon.com.
Their most likely result is staying put at No. 10 — there’s a 65.9% chance that happens. There’s an 18.9% chance of them dropping to No. 11 if one of the four teams behind them cashes in on their odds of jumping into the top four. The Wolves could also land anywhere from No. 12 to 14 in the unlikely event that two or more teams jump them.
If the Wolves are fortunate enough to land in the top four but don’t get the No. 1 pick, they are looking at picking from a pool of prospects that includes Murray State guard Ja Morant, who would be an immediate fit given the Wolves have only one point guard under contract next season (Jeff Teague).
Williamson’s Duke teammate R.J. Barrett is also projected to go in the top five. Other possibilities that high in the draft could include a pair of players who made waves at the Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium — Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter and Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver.