NBA Draft lottery scenarios: How Rockets, Timberwolves, Bulls could lose their first-round picks in 2021

By | June 21, 2021

The 2021 NBA Draft lottery will take place on Tuesday and, per usual, there’s excitement building for teams ahead of the event.

For others such as the Rockets, Timberwolves and Bulls, there’s nervous tension.

That’s because these three teams all have conditions attached to their first-round picks. They will keep their selections if they land within the designated protections (top-four protected, top-five protected, etc.). If they don’t, the selections will convey to other teams as parts of previous trade packages.

So what are Houston, Minnesota and Chicago hoping for during the draft lottery? Here’s how each team can keep its pick and how they could lose it (or see it downgraded) on Tuesday night.

MORE: Draft lottery explained, odds for every pick

Rockets draft lottery scenarios 2021

The Rockets had the worst record in the NBA last season, and that guarantees they will have a top-five pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. However, Houston’s focus will be on whether the team can secure a top-four pick because of a trade they made with the Thunder two years ago.

On July 16, 2019, the Rockets sent Chris Paul and future first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 to the Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook. The team also sent two first-round pick-swap options to Oklahoma City, including one during the 2021 NBA Draft.

However, the 2021 pick-swap is top-four protected. So if the Rockets’ pick falls within the first four picks, Houston will keep it. However, if Houston’s pick lands at the No. 5 spot, Oklahoma City can swap its lowest selection with the Rockets pick.

That would mean that the Rockets get the Thunder’s No. 18 pick (via the Heat) for the No. 5 pick.

The Rockets have a 52.1 percent chance of landing a top-four pick and a 47.9 percent chance of landing the No. 5 pick, per Tankathon. Needless to say, they’ll be sweating out the lottery process on Tuesday as they look for a key piece to jumpstart their rebuild.

MORE: An in-depth look at the Thunder’s excess of draft capital

Timberwolves draft lottery scenarios 2021

The Timberwolves traded for D’Angelo Russell on Feb. 6, 2020 ahead of the NBA trade deadline to pair him as a long-term starter with Karl-Anthony Towns.

As a part of that deal, the Wolves sent Andrew Wiggins and two 2021 draft picks to the Warriors. One was a first-round selection that is top-three protected, so, the Timberwolves need their selection to win a top-three pick in Tuesday’s lottery to keep their selection.

The Timberwolves have the sixth-best lottery odds this year, so those odds are decidedly against them. In fact, Minnesota has a 27.6 percent chance of keeping its pick and a 72.4 percent chance of losing it to the Warriors.

As such, Golden State seems likely to have two lottery picks. But stranger things have happened.

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Bulls draft lottery scenarios 2021

The Bulls have only a 20.2 percent chance of keeping their first-round pick. They sent a top-four protected pick to the Magic in the Nikola Vucevic trade ahead of the 2021 NBA trade deadline.

Considering that Vucevic averaged 21.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 26 games with Chicago, the team won’t complain too much about losing a pick that has a 70.7 percent chance of being the eighth or ninth pick in the draft.

As for the rebuilding Magic, they’ll be watching with bated breath hoping the Bulls don’t win one of the four lottery spots. If they do, the Magic not only lose that selection, but also have their own pick potentially pushed down.

The Magic are tied with the Rockets and Pistons with the best chance at landing the No. 1 pick (14 percent). and have the third-best lottery odds overall.