NBA Draft Lottery: 5 reasons the Timberwolves deserve to win
With the NBA Playoffs focusing on the best teams in the association, the NBA Draft Lottery gives fans a chance to reflect on the teams that did poorly while offering hope for a brighter future.
The draft this year will be held in Brooklyn, but they effectively ruled themselves out of the Ben Simmons sweepstakes when they traded their first round pick this year to the Boston Celtics. Had they held on to it, they could've been in the running for a franchise player, but instead it looks like they could strengthen a divisional rival. And their fans will be reminded of it every step of the way.
Each team at the bottom will be reminded that drafting well is what leads to success. Philadelphia 76ers fans may object to that thought process, given that nothing has panned out for them yet, but that's because you have to draft well beyond the first round. Many of the franchises that are successful now can chalk it up to drafting: namely, the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Cleveland Cavaliers (although the Spurs are an anomaly).
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Thanks to their horrific 10-72 record, the Philadelphia 76ers, aka the reverse 95-96 Bulls, will have the best odds of winning the draft lottery. But they've been spoiled with lottery success in recent years and it's gotten them nowhere. That's why the first pick should go to a team that has a direction, most of its core in place, and a coach that can set them up for long-term success: I'm referring, of course, to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
If Minnesota wins the lottery, it would be the second year in a row that they've done it. But the ownership group has set the team up well so far, and they're on the path to success. There's optimism among the fanbase, unlike New York or Philadelphia where the atmosphere is very toxic, and they're likely to have a Rookie of the Year in back-to-back seasons. While the playoffs next year would still be a stretch, Ben Simmons could very well be the player that pushes them over the top and sees them contend sooner rather than later.
The Timberwolves have been everyone's favorite bottom-feeding team, and they deserve to win the lottery over anyone else. Here are the five reasons why.
5. They can't go wrong with the first-overall pick
You might be wondering why I'm mentioning Stephen Curry in an article about the Timberwolves. Well, one reason is because Curry appreciation knows no bounds, but another reason is that the Timberwolves had two chances to take this guy and passed on him.
For Minnesota fans, the 2009 NBA draft has become one of the darkest periods in the team's history in retrospect. With both the fifth and sixth overall picks in tow, it's clear that they were looking for a point guard since they drafted both Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. So the realization that the Timberwolves missed out on Curry twice, and even got picked right after Flynn, might have been enough for fans to boycott the team altogether.
For those that actually stuck with them after that fiasco, they've been rewarded with a much better drafting record, and two outstanding first-overall picks in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. There's no way they can whiff on the draft this time, as Ben Simmons was the consensus top pick all year, even when his team missed out on March Madness – after all, it wasn't his fault and he still averaged a double-double.
There may be questions as to who to draft if they ended up with the fifth-overall pick – which is where they currently stand. But if they win the lottery and choose first, they can hardly go wrong with choosing Ben Simmons.
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4. Ben Simmons is the team's missing piece
There's a chance that whoever picks No. 1 overall will draft Brandon Ingram, especially after SI made a great case for it (if you haven't read it yet, I suggest you do so right away). But let's say, for argument's sake, that the Timberwolves win the lottery and draft Ben Simmons. Ingram is, after all, a small forward, and they already have that position covered with Wiggins.
Simmons would slot in right at the four and provide a perfect companion for Towns in the frontcourt. Ever since they traded away Kevin Love, that's the spot the Wolves have needed to fill the most. And considering Simmons' upside, there's a chance that, if developed properly, he could be able to replace Love.
With him and Towns playing together, they would have the chance to simply wreak havoc on the offensive glass and flat-out dominate the opposition's defenders.
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There's no reason to think that Simmons won't fit in right away at Minnesota. Most of his teammates are around the same age as him, so it wouldn't feel that much different from a college roster. But unlike LSU, he'd have way better offensive support. Plus, if Kevin Garnett decides to stick around, he'd be the perfect mentor to Simmons in terms of developing his talents at the four at the NBA level.
Of all the teams in the bottom five, Minnesota is quite possibly the best fit for Ben Simmons, and he would provide excellent chemistry with his new teammates.
3. The first-overall pick deserves a great coach
A first overall pick would be the perfect gift for new head coach Tom Thibodeau who, by all accounts, has taken to his new surroundings quite well.
Most people praised the Thibs hire when it was made. For all of Minnesota's shortcomings last season, they still averaged 102.4 points per game and earned the 12th-best offensive rating in the league, but their defensive rating – which was third-worst in the NBA – left much to be desired.
Thibodeau is widely regarded as one of the best defensive-minded coaches in the NBA, and when he was with the Chicago Bulls, he implemented a defensive system that many teams tried to mimic. His departure from the Bulls was viewed more as a falling out with the front office rather than because of a lack of results, and with the Bulls having missed the playoffs in the first year of the Fred Hoiberg era, they're probably regretting the decision already.
Being part of the rebuilding project in Minnesota is the perfect opportunity for Thibs to prove why he's one of the best coaches in the league, especially if he's able to develop a contender in a relatively short time. Getting the first overall pick would not only speed up that process, but it would allow for great team chemistry to be built almost right away in his first season at the helm.
Of all the bottom-feeding teams, Minnesota has by far the best coach – since we're referring to bottom-feeders, we're not counting the Celtics and Brad Stevens. And players like Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, who are already being hailed as franchise players, deserve to be playing under a proper NBA system.
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2. They didn't try to lose
Of all the teams at the bottom of the pack, the Minnesota Timberwolves were the only one that didn't try to lose. Or at least, when they did lose, they didn't look horrible. They gave it their best effort every game and, despite finishing as the fifth worst team in the league, played as if they were fighting for a playoff spot. I mean, this is a team that beat the Warriors in their home court.
With the explosive, yet inexperienced, talent that they boast, the Timberwolves are the perfect combination of disaster and highlights. This is a team that's had the last three first-overall picks, although one of them was only there for a cup of coffee, and will most likely have Towns join Wiggins as a Rookie of the Year.
For players just coming out of college as a one-and-done, it's easy to see why the Timberwolves would be an appealing destination. Rather than trying to acclimatize to new surroundings, they can instead grow and develop with a young core that isn't far off from them in terms of age.
Even if the Timberwolves add Simmons to their roster next year, making the playoffs would be a stretch, but it's meant to be a process. But unlike Sixers fans, the Timberwolves haven't made themselves out to be a joke and aren't selling their fans false hope.
The main difference between Minnesota and Philadelphia is that, if the first pick lands with the Wolves, they'll remain competitive in the loaded Western Conference, as opposed to struggling to get out of the basement in the East's worst division.
1: They have an extremely bright future
For as much as we've ripped the Timberwolves' past mistakes, and for as bad as they've been, this current ownership deserves full credit for building a good young core and trending the team in the right direction. There isn't a position on that team that doesn't have great potential.
At small forward, Andrew Wiggins has shown tremendous talent, and Shabazz Muhammad isn't a bad backup option either. Karl-Anthony Towns already proved himself to be one of the best bigs in the NBA, and he's only going to get better. Ricky Rubio provides a solid veteran presence, and it won't be long before Tyus Jones is poised to take over that starting point guard role.
And while people like to think of him primarily as a human highlight reel since he's the two-time defending Slam Dunk champion, Zach LaVine can still put together a decent points total.
This is a core that's still incomplete, but is very much one that can grow together and become a contender soon. They showed signs of their potential before Thibodeau's arrival, and now he's arrived to help put it all together. They're definitely in a better position than any of the Sixers, Lakers, or Suns and one has to think that the first overall pick will fit in at Minnesota better than any of those other teams.
The only exception is the Boston Celtics, who already have a playoff-caliber team in place, and could become a powerhouse if they add a Simmons or Ingram to their ranks. But the idiocy of the Brooklyn Nets shouldn't be rewarded – rather, the team that deserves to win the lottery the most is the team that is in the best shape to contend.
For all that Timberwolves fans have been through, they deserve to have their spirits lifted by adding another first overall pick to their roster. Make the draft lottery great again!
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