Minnesota slump could result in top-10 pick

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Just a few weeks ago, it appeared as though the Minnesota Timberwolves were headed to the Western Conference playoffs, a development that was great for long-suffering Timberwolves fans but bad news for the Hornets. With New Orleans owning the Timberwolves’ 2012 first-round pick (via the December trade with the Los Angeles Clippers), if Minnesota qualifies for the postseason, it would mean the draft choice conveyed on June 28 would be no better than 15th.

However, after losing seven of their past 10 games, including a 116-108 defeat at Sacramento on Tuesday night, Minnesota has dropped to 25-30 overall and 12th place in the Western Conference. There are now four non-playoff teams (based on the current standings) with better records than the Timberwolves, meaning if the season ended today, they would land in the No. 10 slot of the May 30 draft lottery.

In other words, although there are still roughly three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Hornets could conceivably be in line for a pair of picks in the top 10. Minnesota has 11 games remaining, giving them time to make a final push toward a playoff spot, but the Timberwolves are now 4 ½ games behind eighth-place Houston. Their remaining schedule includes seven home games and four road contests, although Minnesota isn’t significantly better in Target Center (13-13) than in away games (12-17).