The Minnesota Timberwolves are on pace for yet another disappointing season in 2020/21 with just four games left.
Tuesday's matchup with the Detroit Pistons is a key one, but for a reason you may not think. Both teams are vying for a high pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and with a loss here, the Timberwolves can put themselves in a better position for the lottery in June. The organizations with the three worst records by the end of the campaign have the best chance (14 percent) of getting the number one overall selection.
Entering this contest, the Pistons are 20-49 (second-worst) while the Timberwolves are tied for fourth-worst at 21-47. The odds for that top pick though drop to 10.7 percent if they stay at this point. Minnesota has more at stake, though. Following the lottery, if the team did fall out of the top three picks, it would be awarded to the Golden State Warriors. Needless to say, Minny NEEDS to lose.
This is sports. You want to win, there's no question about it. But in this context, the Timberwolves should be doing everything possible to go winless across their last four appearances. Here's why.
Solid core for the future
Despite Minnesota's current state at the bottom of the Western Conference, there is a lot to be positive about. They have a very talented core of Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley (when healthy), and former top pick, Anthony Edwards.
The latter was a result of the T-Wolves tanking last season. Edwards was an absolute star coming out of the University of Georgia, with Minny selecting him first overall in the 2020 Draft.
Needless to say, he's been very impressive in year one. Antman is running neck in neck with LaMelo Ball for Rookie of the Year, averaging 18.9 points, 4.9 boards, and 2.9 assists. He's built a great relationship with his teammates as well.
Towns, on the other hand, is one of the most talented bigs in the Association. Although he's missed time this season due to COVID-19 and family issues, the former Kentucky standout is still averaging 24.9 points and 10.6 rebounds.
The Timberwolves can build their future around these two alone. But then you also have D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley. Russell hasn't played a lot this year because of injuries, but he's still a bucket-getter. As for Beasley, when he wasn't hurt in 2020/21, the 24-year-old was showing out with just under 20 a game.
That's four players right there who can guide this franchise. If you can add another high pick in the draft as well, the dog days in Minnesota could very well be a thing of the past in the near future.
Depth at point guard
While the Timberwolves lineup typically features all four of these players, they really could use some more point guard depth. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Ricky Rubio. He's a seasoned veteran who brings tons of experience and playmaking ability to Chris Finch's team. But to be frank, the Spaniard isn't the answer as their starting PG if they want to turn this ship around.
D'Angelo Russell has spent time at SG and PG this season, but it wouldn't be a bad move at all to have another young and hungry player at the one on the roster.
The projected number one overall pick right now is Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State. Guess what? He's a guard. Cunningham has the size and physicality at 6 foot 8 to be an absolute matchup nightmare for other backcourt opponents and he's a pure scorer. While it's likely the Houston Rockets get him at first overall, the Timberwolves can still dream.
One player who could seem like a serious possibility though is Jalen Suggs. He's currently projected to go third overall to Detroit, but his presence on the Timberwolves roster could be exactly what they need. Suggs was a superstar at Gonzaga and he's originally from the state of Minnesota, which could also make his transition to the league even smoother.
After all, there are three guards expected to go top five, if you include Jalen Green as well. While he plays SG instead, there are some options for the Timberwolves to add some depth behind Edwards and Russell in the backcourt.
But in order to get a prime position in July's NBA Draft, they must call it quits right now. Losing sucks, but it's exactly what Minnesota needs to do to set up their future in the proper manner.