The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a disappointing season. Naturally, that tends to mean there will be a more exciting draft cycle for the team, given their pick will be higher than most teams.
As it stands currently, the Timberwolves are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors for the top odds to be awarded the first overall selection in the draft. Though we are unaware of whether the lottery will be postponed, there is a general sense of where Minnesota will be picking: The top-10. The season possibly continuing could affect where specifically in the top-10 they will select, but it is extremely unlikely they fall past that.
There are three ways to look at lottery odds, especially when the season is still in motion (for now): Current standings, postseason odds, and a weighted mixture of the two.
Let’s start simple.
Based on the current standings, as mentioned, the Timberwolves are a bottom-three team. This means that, along with the Warriors and Cavaliers (the worst and second-worst teams), the Wolves will have a 14% chance to obtain the first overall pick. This is the simple way of looking at it.
1st pick: 14%
2nd pick: 13.4%
3rd pick: 12.7%
4th pick: 12%
5th pick: 14.8%
6th pick: 26%
7th pick: 7%
Now, again, these are a very simple projection. This is only based on the NBA standings right now, and that does not take into consideration that the standings will inevitably change based on the continuation of the existing NBA season.
It gets much more complicated, though.
The aforementioned pre-lottery method is a Basketball Reference tool that looks at Minnesota’s chances of rising or falling in the standings based on remaining strength of schedule and projected wins and losses. It does not look at what could happen after the lottery is performed, and does not look at the chances that certain teams will be awarded top picks. It only shows whether Minnesota’s odds will rise or lower based on the outcomes of the games in the remainder of the season.
As an example, the Golden State Warriors are four wins behind the Cavaliers in the current standings (meaning it is unlikely they rise in the standings), so their pre-lottery odds for the 1st overall slot are 92.6%. In other words, they are extremely likely to go into (not come out of) the lottery as the first overall team.
Take these numbers with a grain of salt, though, as again, we are all unsure of whether this season will be continued anyways.
The final measurement, called post-lottery odds by Basketball Reference, is essentially a weighted version of the previous two calculations. It looks at the projections as to where each team will land in the final standings, and then weights the pick odds following that projection.
Again, this projection is only useful if the NBA actually continues its season. Based on the weighted post-lottery projection, here are the Timberwolves’ pick odds, should the NBA finish out the regular season:
Regardless, it will be interesting to see where the Timberwolves end up picking following the lottery, or even if the NBA decides to continue their regular season.