How low in the standings should you want MIN to finish? The definitive answer.

Will I find love in 2021? Only Apricot's model knows

The Warriors have the Minnesota Timberwolves 2021 draft pick unless it is in the Top 3, in which case GSW will get the 2022 MIN unprotected draft pick. This has most GSW fans hoping MIN will be bad enough to get GSW a great pick.

But *how* bad should MIN be to optimize the GSW result? This article will give you a specific model to help you decide exactly which MIN seed you should pull for.

Too Long; Didn’t Read

If you like giving up all free will and not understanding why, then just read this part. And also hit this button:

To use the model, imagine:

  • it is guaranteed that MIN gets a Top 3 draft pick this year

  • GSW does not get the 2021 MIN pick and instead gets the 2022 MIN unprotected 1st

  • GSW still keeps its 2021 pick if it is in the Top 20

Would you trade the 2022 MIN unprotected draft pick for the #29 pick this year?

If NO, root for MIN to get the #1 seed.

If YES, then root for MIN to get the #6 seed.

Okay, the rest of the article will explain this conclusion.

The Tradeoffs

If the 2021 MIN pick were unprotected, this would be easy: pull for MIN to get the #1 seed. But the worse they are, roughly speaking the higher the odds that they will get a Top 3 pick (thus costing GSW a chance at the super-hyped 2021 draft pick).

Here is Math. For each Lottery seed, below are the odds of each outcome.

Here is the one unarguable fact.

If MIN finishes top 3, then #1 is the best spot.

The Lose Pick odds are all equal but the expected outcomes are best for #1. (This is due to the league’s introducing equal lottery odds for the top 3 teams.)

Apricot’s Simple Model

Things really depend on how much you value the tradeoff between getting a pick in the 2021 draft versus deferring it until 2022. This itself will depend on how much you value

  • having draft help one year sooner (for the end of the Big Three contender window),

  • next year’s draft strengths compared to this year’s, and

  • how badly you expect MIN to do in 2021-22 after they themselves have a Top 3 pick.

I have brilliantly simplified this calculation. To use my model, you have to simply imagine: what 2021 draft pick do you judge to be an even trade for the 2022 unprotected MIN pick?

Example 1. “2022 is the greatest draft of all time”

In this scenario, I value the 2022 pick so much, I would trade the 2021 #1 pick for the 2022 MIN pick. I will now calculate the expected average pick # for each seed, valuing “Lost Pick” as the #1 pick instead.

As you would expect, if Lose Pick is a great outcome for you, you should just pull for MIN to get the best possible pick. Nobody thinks this about the 2021 Draft, but for instance, most of us felt this way about the 2020 draft… we’d happily have traded a pick in 2021 instead of drafting in 2020.

Example 2. “A 2022 pick is worthless”

In this scenario, I think the extra year of help is crucial, next year’s draft stinks, and MIN will be fantastic next year with the Top 3 pick, so forget it, I wouldn’t trade anything above the last pick in the draft, #60. So valuing “Lost Pick” as a #60 pick…

I was expecting the model to say we should just hope for #14 to maximize the chances of keeping the pick, but in fact, #11 is best. You get a bit more expected value from the better kept pick position than from the small bump in odds to keep the pick.

Example 3. “I’d trade the #15 pick” (close to Apricot’s position)

I personally think MIN will still be kind of bad next year with the high pick and the 2022 draft seems to have some stars in it. I really value every last year of the Big Three but around the #15 pick, you probably are not getting short term help. So I’d be willing to trade the #15 pick this year for the unprotected 2022 MIN pick.

This was a bit of a surprise to me, but it is still worth pulling for the #1 seed in this case. (Interestingly, #5 is the second best seed.)

The Simple Model Chooses For You…

Now it’s your turn.

In short, imagine that it is guaranteed that MIN gets a Top 3 draft pick this year and so GSW does not get the 2021 MIN pick. You now have the 2022 MIN unprotected draft pick.

What pick in the 2021 draft is a fair trade for it?

This table will now tell you which lottery seed you should hope for MIN to get.

Apricot’s Complex Model

Wait, you might say, this model just averages the possible pick values. That assumes that the difference between #1 and #2 is the same as between #14 and #15. We need to take into account the fact that there is a lot more value towards the top of the draft!

You are correct. And a nerd. And I’m glad you asked.

I looked into a few different models for the expected value of each draft pick. Most of the models have a similar shape where the difference between picks declines, so I picked the first one in the DuckDuckGo search that values drafted players with a stat I could tolerate.

In the model I selected, Nick Restifo used Peak Two-Year VORP. If you are a subscriber and really want to see the source spreadsheet, request it in the comments.

I recalculated the expected value (not just the expected draft pick number) of each MIN lottery seed and here is your new MIN lottery seed overlord table:

The difference in expected value between the MIN lottery sees #6, #7 and #8 is small, so we will simplify the rule.

And this is where we came in…

Too Long; Didn’t Read

To use the model, imagine:

  • it is guaranteed that MIN gets a Top 3 draft pick this year

  • GSW does not get the 2021 MIN pick and instead gets the 2022 MIN unprotected 1st

  • GSW still keeps its 2021 pick if it is in the Top 20

Would you trade the 2022 MIN unprotected draft pick for the #29 pick this year?

If NO, root for MIN to get the #1 seed.

If YES, then root for MIN to get the #6 seed.