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stephen curry 2021
  • The 2021 draft pick the Wolves traded to the Warriors now plays a big part in both teams’ futures.

  • The Wolves need a top-3 pick to add to their core and build around Karl-Anthony Towns.

  • The Warriors could use that pick to get help for Stephen Curry, who is approaching free agency.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Very few individual NBA regular season games carry much weight, but the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ 126-114 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday felt emblematic of the two teams’ current state and future direction.

Here were the Wolves winning a game that was not in their best interest, and the Warriors losing to a bad team in the midst of a tight playoff race.

The fates of both franchises are tied together by the 2020 trade that sent Andrew Wiggins to the Warriors and D’Angelo Russell to the Wolves. In particular, the top-three protected 2021 draft pick the Wolves sent the Warriors may go a long way in shaping both teams’ futures.

The Wolves could really use a top-three pick

The Wolves currently own the NBA’s fourth-worst record. They have a greater chance of landing outside of the top three and losing that pick than they do of keeping it.

Losing that pick could be costly for Minnesota, as this year’s draft class is said to be one of the best in years, and the Wolves could use all of the help they can get.

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Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards. Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Wolves appear to have a nice core in place with Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell, and last year’s No. 1 pick, Anthony Edwards. Due to injuries, the three players have only shared the court for a combined 169 minutes in 16 games, but they’ve gone 10-6 in those games.

It’s a promising development, but it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from it. The Wolves have shot 52% from the field and 44% from three in those 169 minutes – numbers that will fall over time. And their 123.4 defensive rating with those three on the floor would be the worst in the NBA by a mile if it were sustained.

The Wolves must feel the pressure of time. They have made the playoffs once in the last 17 years. Russell has two years left on his deal. Towns has three left on his. As Towns’ deal nears its expiration, there will almost certainly be speculation about his future with the franchise if the Wolves don’t turn things around quickly.

Landing a top-three pick in a stacked draft class would certainly help that cause. Losing it only means the Wolves will have to get more creative to convince Towns that they’re heading in the right direction.

The Warriors owe Stephen Curry a good team

Thursday’s loss was illustrative of the issues Curry and the Warriors face. Curry had 37 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists, but the Warriors still lost. They were out-rebounded 57-34.

The Warriors are now in 10th place in the West, clinging to the final spot for the NBA’s play-in tournament. If they stay there, they’ll have to win two games just to make the playoffs, and their reward will be a matchup with either Utah Jazz or Phoenix Suns, the two teams with the best records in the NBA.

Curry has reached new heights this season, and it’s been all he can do to keep the Warriors a afloat. In April, Curry averaged 37 points per game on 52% shooting, 47% from three, going on an historic scoring and shooting run in the process. Yet the Warriors only went 8-8 for the month.

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Stephen Curry. Jeff Chiu/AP Images

Curry simply doesn’t have enough help on the roster. Wiggins isn’t a reliable second option. Draymond Green is still a plus defender and playmaker, but has shown signs of aging this year and brings little in the way of scoring.

Klay Thompson is slated to return next season, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be the same player after missing two seasons recovering from a torn ACL and torn Achilles.

The Warriors, like the Wolves, must also feel the pressure of time. Curry has just one more season left on his contract. It’s hard to imagine Curry playing outside of the Bay Area, but it’s something he may have to consider if the Warriors can’t find a way to quickly re-tool into championship contenders once again.

The Wolves’ 2021 pick could help in that regard. There will undoubtedly be calls for the Warriors to trade that pick and rookie center James Wiseman (last year’s second overall pick) for some win-now help for Curry.

The Warriors will have to weigh whether they care more about building a bridge into the next era or giving Curry more chances at another championship. They may lean toward the latter.

Curry, after all, has been the model superstar in the NBA. The Warriors built a dynasty, in part, because Curry was vastly underpaid, making just $11 million a season during his two MVP campaigns. He then helped recruit Kevin Durant to the team, sacrificing touches, shots, and a certain level of glory in the process.

Curry is a once-in-a-lifetime player who is still at his peak and due for another $200 million contract in a year. Barring some unexpected postseason run this year, the Warriors will have lost two seasons of Curry’s prime. They’ll need to get back to winning soon.

If there was any consolation to Thursday’s loss, it’s that the Wolves won, increasing the chances the Warriors get some help in the near future.

Read the original article on Insider