Future of the Wolves At the Mercy of Ping Pong Ball Draw

It sounds painfully obvious to say that a team that won just 17 games this past season, and only 32 over the past two years, could use some luck during the offseason.

Many fans would argue that the Wolves have a laundry list of needs to address this summer: a new owner, a new head coach, a new general manager, a true superstar, a point guard, a legitimate starting center, the list could go on for days.

But for a Timberwolves franchise that hasn’t been even remotely relevant since July 31, 2007, how fittingly tragic is it that the entire future of the franchise will depend on a drawing of ping-pong balls?

Simply put, the Wolves need to win the NBA Draft Lottery this year.

As the NBA’s worst team in 2011, Minnesota has the best chance (25%) to land the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery, and they desperately need the laws of probability to work in their favor this year. 

If you have been a Wolves fan for any length of time, you are probably well aware of the team’s terrible luck when it comes to the draft lottery.

In 1992, the Wolves also had the NBA’s worst record and best chance at No. 1.  But Orlando (second-worst record) and Charlotte (seventh-worst) leap-frogged Minnesota in the lotto.  The Hornets got Alonzo Mourning and the Magic got Shaq.  The Wolves ended up with Christian Laettner.  And from that point on, it’s been nothing but bad luck.

In fact, from 1992-1995, the Wolves had the worst or second-worst record in the league each year, and only ended up with a top-three pick once.   Throughout the franchise’s entire history, Minnesota has NEVER gotten the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in any draft.  And they have NEVER moved up from their record-dictated position in the lottery.

Over the past 20 years, there have been 14 different NBA franchises to win the No. 1 overall pick.  Four of those teams (Chicago, Los Angeles’ Clippers, Milwaukee and New Jersey) have won the lottery twice, and one team, the Orlando Magic has been awarded the top choice three times!

The bad luck has been enough to cause some Wolves fans to accuse the entire draft lottery process as being rigged (Ohio-native LeBron James and Chicago-native Derrick Rose being awarded to their respective hometown teams fueled this belief for many).

But the bottom line for the Timberwolves is that this year, more than ever, they need to finally end that string of bad luck and land the No. 1 pick in order to select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving.

Even if the Wolves don’t get a chance to draft Irving, they need to be prepared to trade whatever assets they can (not named Love or Beasley) to get him.

It sounds desperate to suggest going all-in for one particular prospect, but the Wolves should be desperate.  Point guard is the most important position in the game, and it’s blatantly obvious that Luke Ridnour and Jonny Flynn aren’t the answer.

The need for a top flight point guard is becoming more and more obvious across the league as players like Rose, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul are leading their respective teams to playoff wins this season.  It’s becoming very clear that in order for the Wolves to take the next step as an organization and become a playoff-caliber team, they need to find a longterm solution at the position.

What about Ricky Rubio, you ask?

Well, you can count me in the camp that isn’t quite as high on Rubio as most.  Yes, Rubio, whom the Wolves drafted No. 5 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft from Spain, has talent and potential as a distributor, but to me, he is more YouTube hype and flashiness rather than a legitimate elite-level NBA talent.

Just look at the top point guards around the league today.  Paul, Rose, Westbrook, Rondo, Deron Williams and Steve Nash can all affect a game with BOTH their ability to get teammates involved AND their ability to score on their own.  They can punish opponents for paying too much attention to them defensively with their great vision and passing, but they can also hurt defenses that don’t pay enough attention to them by scoring on their own.  This is what makes them elite players and helps their teams win games.

Rubio’s biggest glaring weakness is his lack of scoring ability.  He has shown that he is a deft passer with great vision, but to me, a great NBA point needs to be able to keep defenses honest by being able to score in the clutch and not have to depend on teammates.

This is the quality that Irving can bring to the Wolves that Rubio cannot in my opinion.

Irving projects as a solid NBA point guard with the potential to be elite.  He has drawn comparisons to New Orleans’ Paul and performed very well in limited action during his freshman season at Duke.

Beyond Irving in this year’s draft, there are very few elite prospects that would fit in well with the Wolves.  Arizona’s Derrick Williams is perhaps the only other legitimate candidate to go first overall, but he would be a redundant player for Minnesota since Beasley is already somewhat of a SF/PF tweener.

And with the Wolves’ 2012 first rounder set to be sent to the Los Angeles Clippers for the amazingly terrible Sam Cassell/Marko Jaric deal from a few years back, it is absolutely imperative for the Wolves to strike gold in this year’s draft.

And to do that, David Kahn and company need to figure out a way to come away with Kyrie Irving.

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