The Minnesota sports landscape is filled with plenty of ‘what ifs’ that torment fans from previous failures. Those moments don’t discriminate between sports, either. The fan base has been seemingly tortured by each team in town.
What if Gary Andersen makes the field goal in ’98? What if Brett Favre doesn’t throw that interception in ’09? What if the Twins trade for Cliff Lee in 2010? What if Lou Holtz doesn’t leave the Gophers for Notre Dame? What if the Wild don’t trade Brett Burns?
The Wolves have certainly earned their way onto that list with the Vikings, Twins, Wild, and Gophers – MNUFC, don’t worry you’ll someday make this list. What if Kevin Garnett would’ve gotten the contract he wanted from the Wolves? What if they would’ve surrounded Kevin Love with legitimate talent? What if the team would’ve traded Andrew Wiggins instead of Zach LaVine for Jimmy Butler? What if they wouldn’t have passed on Steph Curry? What if they didn’t give Wiggins a max contract? What if they never hired David Kahn?
You get the point.
Here’s the thing: all of these ‘what ifs’ are negative things. Not one of those bring back any good memories for Wolves fans. But typically, this is an exercise reserved for previous negativity. Let’s change that for a second.
What if the Minnesota Timberwolves win the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night?
Okay, so here comes the same answer every single time this possibility is brought up. Everyone, in unison:
The Minnesota Timberwolves have never once moved up in the draft order. Even when they landed Karl-Anthony Towns at No. 1 overall, they had the best odds at getting the top pick. They only ever move down.
Sure, that’s correct. There have been 20 times in the history of the franchise that the Wolves have been in the lottery and they’ve drafted higher than the place they were slotted.
Why can’t that change on Tuesday night?
Of course, the franchise can’t control anything at this point. The fate of this draft is up to the ping pong ball gods to decide. The Wolves have a 13.9% chance of moving up into the top four and a 3.0% chance at drafting first overall.
The Wolves can certainly get a high-caliber player if they pick at 10th overall – or later – but the likelihood of drafting that franchise changing guy is higher with a better pick.
If the Wolves do land the No. 1 overall pick, the trajectory of the franchise drastically changes. Instead of being a team that might find itself back in the lottery this time next season, or potentially fighting for a spot towards the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture, the Wolves instantly have expectations. They’re not championship-level expectations, yet. But they soon could be.
The Wolves would instantly go from being in an incredibly undesirable position – one that could potentially see them squander the opportunity of having Towns – to being an envy of the NBA. They could have two players – both under the age of 24 – that have legitimate superstar potential. Even if the salary cap situation is a mess, they’d be in a much better spot than they are as things stand right now.
Even if the Wolves don’t win the lottery and get the No. 1 overall pick, what if they end up with the second, third, or fourth pick? That’s something worth thinking about too. They likely won’t be getting Zion Williamson unless they have the top selection, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a ton of talent.
This is thought of as a three-player draft as of right now – we’re still over a month out and things change in the NBA. It’s easy to think of the draft pool in tiers. Williamson is all alone in the top tier. After that Duke’s RJ Barrett and Murray State’s Ja Morant make up the second tier. It’s after that where there’s a relatively sizable gap between them and a much larger third tier of players.
Maybe grabbing one of those guys in the top four helps. Maybe it’s someone else.
Maybe the Wolves find good fortune Tuesday night and, in many years, Minnesotans can look back with a smile and think, “wow, what if we wouldn’t have won the lottery.”