Where Warriors' pick via T-Wolves sits going into draft lottery

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Where Warriors' pick via T-Wolves landed for draft lottery originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

If you're a Warriors fan hoping to land a top-five selection in the 2021 NBA Draft by way of the Minnesota Timberwolves' top-three protected pick, I have some bad news for you:

That is very, very unlikely to happen.

Though there was a pile-up at the bottom of the league standings, the T-Wolves landed too high up for Golden State's liking. Minnesota won its season finale by defeating the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, and that was a major blow to the Warriors' chances of picking fourth or fifth in what is widely considered a five-player draft.

At 23-49, the T-Wolves finished outside the five worst records in the league by the smallest possible margin. Consequently, Minnesota will be slotted sixth in the draft lottery, which means there's a very good chance the pick conveys to Golden State, but not where or when the Warriors would prefer.

Since the T-Wolves improved to the sixth-worst record, it is impossible for their first-round pick to land at No. 5 overall. Either it will jump into the top four selections, or it will land somewhere between Nos. 6 and 10 overall. However, if the pick does jump into the top four, but lands anywhere between Nos. 1 and 3 overall, Minnesota will retain it, and instead, the Warriors will get the T-Wolves completely unprotected first-round pick in 2022. That means that the only way that the pick conveys to Golden State this year and lands inside the top five is if it lands precisely at No. 4 overall.

And the chances of that are not good at all. In fact, there's only a 9.6 percent chance of that happening.

Meanwhile, there's an 8.6 percent chance the Minnesota pick lands at No. 6 overall, a 29.7 percent chance it lands at seven, a 20.6 percent chance it lands at eight, a 3.7 percent chance it lands ninth, and finally, a 0.2 percent chance it lands at 10.

The remainder, of course, is a 27.6 percent chance that it lands within the top-three, and thus, doesn't convey this year. And outside of the slim chance that the Warriors end up picking fourth overall, that's what they should be hoping for. 

The first five picks of the 2021 draft are expected to be, in some order, Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, all of which would have had a great chance at being the first overall pick a year ago. After those five, though, there is a wide consensus that there is a significant drop-off in talent, and basically no consensus whatsoever on which prospect should go sixth. 

Should the Warriors end up picking between the sixth and 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft, it seems unlikely that would be anywhere near as valuable as Minnesota's unprotected 2022 pick would be.

While the T-Wolves played better over the last month and Anthony Edwards looks like a stud, it would take a gigantic leap on their part to qualify for the playoffs next season. The Western Conference projects to be incredibly difficult yet again, and other than the Sacramento Kings, which teams that finished above them this season can they reasonably be expected to leapfrog next season?

As Warriors fans are well aware, injuries happen, and they can completely change the trajectory of a season. If Karl-Anthony Towns or Edwards were to miss any extended period for whatever reason, it would be very difficult to imagine the Timberwolves finishing considerably higher in the standings next year, if at all. And again, even if they're fully healthy, the T-Wolves are not a playoff team next season -- even with whoever they'd get in the top three.

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The beauty of having the unprotected 2022 pick is that it arguably would provide the Warriors with a better asset for longer, which they could either use themselves or involve in a trade. If they're picking sixth overall in 2021, whichever player they select is going to find it challenging to become a significant part of the rotation as a rookie, and is highly unlikely to be anywhere near as valuable as the unprotected 2022 pick until he does.

So, given that it looks like the Warriors won't have a chance at drafting another potential star, their best way to acquire one would appear to be through trade. And, between the sixth overall pick this year and Minnesota's unprotected 2022 pick, there is no question as to which would be more valuable to Golden State over the next year -- or at least until the Timberwolves prove to be a significantly better team, if they ever do.

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