Wolves will be just good enough to miss lottery

Published 2:34 am Thursday, July 11, 2013

Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal

I told myself last week that after the Timberwolves’ acquisition of Kevin Martin, I would write one last NBA column for the summer.

While I’m as giddy as ever following the draft and now submerged in the midst of the free agency period, you’re probably burnt out. Well bear with me one more week because the Wolves and the NBA keep giving me material I can’t ignore.

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Much like last summer, I’m pleased with the Timberwolves’ off-season acquisitions. But unlike last summer, their moves actually make sense.

Instead of adding to the team’s fleet of point guards, Saunders traded Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee to open up cap space. And instead of signing a player with less cartilage in his knees than my 90-year-old grandfather, he’s addressed the team’s biggest weaknesses, adding a pair of capable outside shooters and a solid perimeter defender.

Saunders has taken the mess he inherited, and, with the additions of Martin and Corey Brewer and resigning of Chase Budinger and (presumably) Big Pek, turned it into one of the deepest, most well-balanced rosters in the league.

With many of the Western Conference’s elite teams standing pat during free agency, the Timberwolves should make the playoffs next season, and it will be just their luck. The team will secure a seventh or eighth seed and miss out on one of the most stacked NBA lotteries in the past 30 years.

For those who believe in NBA conspiracies (believe me, there are plenty) pay attention next year. With can’t-miss, potential superstar players including Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker likely to enter the draft, we’ll see plenty of teams tank in hopes of landing a franchise-changing player.

For conspiracy theorists, they’ll expect to see the Lakers miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season before beating the odds and landing the No. 1 pick just in time for LeBron to bolt for Hollywood. The NBA wouldn’t allow the Lakers to be bad for more than one season, right?

If there was a year to have a bad season, though, this is it. Predictably, the Timberwolves will be good enough at exactly the wrong time.

I don’t actually believe the NBA lottery is rigged, even though it’s fun to think about after Cleveland landed the No. 1 pick the same summer they lost LeBron, and the NBA-owned Hornets won it in 2012.

Despite all the talent looming in next summer’s draft, I am still rooting for the Timberwolves to end their playoff drought. Securing the eighth seed won’t bode well for their future, but even if they’re bounced in the first round, it will for the sanity of their fans.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears in the Tribune each Thursday.