The Warriors have been showing signs of improvement as of late and have been looking more like a playoff team. But regardless of how they ultimately finish the 2020-21 season, it appears increasingly likely that they'll end up with a very high pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
The Andrew Wiggins-D'Angelo Russell trade is looking better and better for Golden State, and not simply due to the fact that the former is proving to be a far better fit alongside Steph Curry than the latter. It would have been a win for the Warriors if the trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves was limited to just those two players, but the Dubs also got the T-Wolves top-three protected 2021 first-round pick, too. And ultimately, that pick very well could turn into the best player involved in the deal.
The 2021 draft class is absolutely loaded and regarded as the best in many years. As great as James Wiseman has looked thus far, there are a handful of players in the 2021 class that are considered to be superior prospects than the No. 2 overall pick. And, thanks to the Timberwolves, it's looking like a good bet that the Warriors will have a decent chance to snag one of them.
Minnesota was expected to finish near the bottom of the ultra-competitive Western Conference, and the early returns support that. After winning their first two games of the season, the T-Wolves have lost five in a row and currently are tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the worst record in the conference. Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns missing the entirety of the losing streak with a dislocated wrist certainly hasn't helped, and while they'll be a better team when he returns, it's clear -- barring major changes -- that the Timberwolves are not a playoff-caliber team. And as such, they're going to end up with a lottery pick.
Well, actually, no they won't. Instead, the Warriors will.
The pick is top-three protected, meaning that if it lands outside of the first three overall selections, it conveys to Golden State. Should the Timberwolves' pick land within the top three, then the Warriors will get Minnesota's unprotected 2022 first-round pick instead.
The Timberwolves are bad. Probably really bad. But luckily for the Warriors, there are a handful of other teams that look even worse and ultimately should finish even lower in the league standings. The Detroit Pistons (1-7) look like the absolute worst of the bunch. The Grizzlies will be without Ja Morant for at least another couple weeks. The Washington Wizards (2-6) are terrible, even with Bradley Beal playing tremendously. The Chicago Bulls' record (4-4) looks a lot better than they actually are. The Oklahoma City Thunder (3-4) have a bright future, but it's going to take a while to get there.
Point being, the Timberwolves look like they're right in the Warriors' sweet spot: too bad to be a playoff team, but too good to be one of the three worst teams in the league -- but not by much. Consequently, their pick should convey to Golden State, and it should be within the top 10 selections, if not the top five.
Yes, there's always a chance that the Timberwolves could jump into one of the top three picks in the draft lottery, but the odds are against it as it is and would get worse with each team that finishes worse than Minnesota in the final standings. So, the Warriors won't mind the occasional T-Wolves' victory. In fact, that's precisely what they want.
Just as long as Minnesota's losses continue to far outnumber their wins.