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No luck for Timberwolves: Minnesota doesn't improve draft position in lottery, will pick 13th

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MINNEAPOLIS - Now that the Minnesota Timberwolves have dispensed with their annual no-luck trip through the NBA's draft lottery, they can get down to business.

The Timberwolves received the 13th pick in the lottery on Tuesday night, which is exactly where they were slotted heading into the annual drawing. The Timberwolves have never improved their draft position in franchise history, including the last 10 years in a row.

The odds were stacked against them on Tuesday night, when they had a 2.18 per cent chance of moving into the top three selections. But the suspense ended early when their logo came up two picks into the process.

It wasn't all bad news for the Timberwolves, though. Had the Phoenix Suns moved into the top three from the 14th and final position in the lottery field, the Timberwolves would have lost their first-round draft pick altogether as part of the trade that sent Wesley Johnson to the Suns two years ago. But the Wolves' draft pick was protected through the first 13 picks this year, allowing the Wolves to hold onto it.

President of basketball operations Flip Saunders burned incense at team headquarters in a tongue-in-cheek ploy to ward off the evil spirits that have doomed the Wolves in past lottery trips, but the trick didn't work.

Now that the Timberwolves know exactly where they stand, and exactly where every other lottery team stands, expect things to start getting interesting.

Saunders planned to wait until after the drawing to start narrowing the field of candidates for the team's coaching vacancy. Rick Adelman retired at the end of the season, and Saunders was met with a tepid response from some of the biggest names on his wish list when he first started the search.

Saunders was hoping a lucky night and a top-three pick might make the job more attractive to some of the established coaches who are available, but most of those candidates have been reluctant to engage the Wolves because of the uncertainty surrounding star forward Kevin Love, who can opt out of his contract after next season and become a free agent.

Love is expected to test the free-agent market after not making the playoffs in any of his first six seasons in Minnesota. The prospect of losing the second-best player in franchise history without anything to show for it has the Timberwolves at least considering trading him, if they can get a package that they feel would make the transition from the Love era to the next as painless as possible.

The way the lottery unfolded on Tuesday night didn't provide as much intrigue as it could have. Cleveland won the lottery for the third time in four seasons, followed by Milwaukee and Philadelphia. But it is difficult to imagine Love agreeing to go to any of those three markets when he is looking to join a franchise that can contend right away.

Three teams believed to be very interested in making a run at Love — the Celtics, the Lakers and Suns — didn't get any help on lottery night. The Celtics finished with the sixth pick, the Lakers the seventh and the Suns at No. 14.

Even in a draft projected to be very deep, using selections that low as one of the primary pieces in a trade package for one of the elite offensive players in the league figures to be a tough sell.

The Wolves are in no rush to make a decision on Love. If they don't pull the trigger on a trade around next month's draft, they can go forward with a plan to improve the roster, hire an energetic new coach and get the team rolling enough to change Love's mind, much the way the Portland Trail Blazers did last year with previously disgruntled LaMarcus Aldridge.

They could also choose to hold on to him to try and get a better deal as the trade deadline approaches next February or keep him for the entire season and then use the roughly $17 million in salary-cap room that his exit would create to go after big-name free agents in the summer of 2015.

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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