Tonight’s game has major draft lottery implications for both the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. Obviously, that’s not a topic of discussion that either fanbase hoped for back in autumn, yet here we are.
The Rockets and T-Wolves are the two worst teams by record in the NBA. Both have extenuating circumstances that can allow them to feel better about their seasons, but at the end of the day neither of these teams as currently constructed is going to make much noise next year even with full health.
Thus, teams in these positions look to the draft as a way to improve and inject some excitement into the fanbase. No one likes losing, but when a bad year lands your Ja Morant? That’s an easier pill to swallow.
Adding another dimension into the proceedings are the two
terrible awful stupid ridiculous cringe-worthy poor trades these teams made for point guards. If you asked me to name the five most overrated players in the NBA, both Russell Westbrook and D’Angelo Russell would probably land in my top 3. Unfortunately, both of the teams competing tonight not only traded for these players, but they gave up significant draft capital to acquire them. Now, the Rockets have to lose to keep a 52% chance of keeping their pick from going to OKC and Minnesota has to lose to keep a 40% chance of keeping their pick from going to Golden State. Much like last year, I think there are a lot of teams wary of Golden State landing at number 4 and having a significant trade chip in the offseason. Last year they were unable to unload the second pick, but that came in a weak year with lots of questions surrounding the top 3. This year, there is a clear-cut top 4, so that fourth pick is juicy.
These teams played back on March 26 and 27 in Minnesota. The Rockets blew a big lead late in the first game, then finished the job in a blowout win in the return contest. Minnesota has been surging of late, going 5-4 over their last nine games. This is Houston’s only remaining game against a team outside of the playoff picture, and is likely their best last chance to pick up a win. A win for Minny could be devastating, as it would basically put them in a 3-way tie for the second-worst spot. And with OKC actively tanking, and closing fast, the Timberwolves would be wise to use tonight’s second game of a back-to-back as a rest game for their stars.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest