The Minnesota Timberwolves have been bottom-feeders in the NBA for the last few seasons. However, it’ll only be two or three more years until the Timberwolves are back in the playoff picture.
The team that finished 16-66 last year, who hasn’t had a winning percentage above 50% in over ten years is going to make the playoffs? Yes, they are.
Since the Timberwolves have been so bad lately, they have nowhere to go but up. And they have the personnel that can take them there.
The Soon-To-Be Big Three
Zach LaVine was another prospect who landed with the Wolves by way of the 2014 draft. Only recently has LaVine looked like a lottery pick; it was questionable picking him at 13 because he was really raw offensively and got by because of freak athleticism. Over the last 18 games for Minnesota, LaVine has looked fantastic. He’s averaging 17.4 points per game, and his percentages have been superb: 50% from the field and 42% from three.
He’s shown that he’s more than just an athlete, but much like Wiggins, is going to need another year or two to work on his shot selection and all-around game.
Lastly, there’s Karl-Anthony Towns. The Timberwolves selected him first overall in the most recent draft, and he appears to be the runaway Rookie of the Year. He has great size and great skill on both sides of the floor to go along with it. Ranking top-10 in both total rebounds and blocks, KAT is going to be the Wolves’ defensive anchor while they make their playoff run.
Currently sitting at 20-43 in the West, Basketball-Reference gives the Timberwolves a 9.4% chance of winning the lottery. We’ve seen it in the past, and it’s rare for the team with the worst record to obtain the first overall pick. Most likely, Minnesota will be the number five pick and a lot of draft boards have them drafting Kris Dunn, a point guard from Providence.
Drafting Dunn would give them the chance to trade Ricky Rubio, which we’ll get to later. What Dunn would give them that they don’t have now is a point guard who’s a threat to score. While Rubio is an excellent distributor, it hurts their offense because defenses don’t need to worry about him — Rubio has yet to have a field goal percentage higher than 38%. Dunn is a big-bodied, athletic, scoring point guard who has great court vision and can get out and run the break with LaVine and Wiggins on the wings.
Let’s play hypotheticals here: What if Minnesota was to win the lottery? Well, they’d draft Ben Simmons, the Austrailian LeBron James, and immediately shake up the Western Conference.
If that were to happen, their lineup would include Rubio & LaVine in the backcourt, and Wiggins, Simmons, and Towns up front.
Now that’s a lineup I’d love to throw out there for a season.
Since being instituted in 1985, there have been ten instances where the lottery winner has had less than a 9.4% chance of winning, so there’s a possibility this happen.
To Trade or Not To Trade
It’s going to be fascinating to see what Minnesota does with Ricky Rubio. He could very well be traded, or they could choose to keep him to facilitate. His impact on the court shouldn’t be overlooked, as he’s one of three players this season averaging more than eight assists and two steals per game.
If I were in Minnesota’s front office, I’d test the waters trading him and see what happens. Landing in a position to draft either Simmons or Dunn would push me even harder to trade him because either of them could run an offense. Rubio’s trade value is decent, at least, and I’d do my best to trade for a veteran role player and even try to include a 2016 second round pick.
His value on the market is good enough for a late first round pick, but so many young players are going to warrant experience in the locker room. And Kevin Garnett isn’t going to be around forever.