Despite landing the first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves are still the unluckiest lottery team.
Moving up in the lottery to win the No. 1 overall pick in the draft was a long time coming for the Minnesota Timberwolves and their fans.
But make no mistake: the Wolves have been so unlucky historically that the numbers still suggest that they remain the unluckiest franchise when it comes to the draft lottery.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are still NBA’s unluckiest lottery team
It’s been well-documented that the Minnesota Timberwolves had never moved up in the NBA draft since their inception in 1989. The only time in which the lottery handed the Wolves the No. 1 pick was one of the several years in which they had the best odds. That was in 2015 when they drafted Karl-Anthony Towns.
The year prior, they had acquired No. 1 overall pick and rookie Andrew Wiggins via trade from Cleveland, but it was after the draft and before he stepped foot on the court for the Cavaliers.
This year, the Wolves had the league’s third-worst record. They were tied with Cleveland and Golden State with a 14 percent chance at winning the No. 1 overall pick, but the third-best overall odds meant that Minnesota could have fallen as far as the No. 7 pick, while Golden State was guaranteed to stay in the top five and Cleveland in the top six.
Technically, they didn’t move up as much as they won the even odds and avoided falling backward. But Wolves fans will take it.
FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Pane put numbers behind the Wolves’ lottery futility and laid it all out in chart form. Even after winning the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, the Timberwolves remain last in “total pick changes”.
Head over to FiveThirtyEight for the entire chart. Here’s what Pane’s commentary says, in part:
Not only was it the first time [the Wolves] had ever drafted above its pre-draft slot, but it represented a huge departure for a team that still has dropped 15 total slots below expected over the years — the most of any team in lottery history…
Pane took each team’s original draft slot, including picks traded away, and calculated what the pick change was, considering whether a team moved up, stayed in the same spot, or fell in the final lottery results.
Unsurprisingly, the Wolves were last, and remain there despite their 2020 victory. When accounting for the number of lotteries in which each team has participated (only the Kings and Clippers have been in the lottery more going back to 1985), the Wolves still rank fifth-worst in “average pick change.”
Alas, the Minnesota Timberwolves remain the league’s unluckiest lottery team. Here’s hoping that with a core of Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, it’s a long time before the Wolves find themselves in the lottery again.