Wemby watch: How Wembanyama may help the draft lottery teams
When a generational talent like Victor Wembanyama comes along, it's clear that he would make any team that he's with better in a multitude of ways.
And the team that wins Tuesday's NBA draft lottery in Chicago — and the right to draft Wembanyama next month — will be immediately improved. Here's a look at the 14 hopefuls in the lottery, and their odds of landing the 7-foot-3 French teen phenom.
Odds: 14%, or about 7-1
Outlook: A new coach is coming, and if Wembanyama goes to the Pistons he’d be teaming up with Killian Hayes — whose mother is French, so there would be some comforts of home at least.
Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey were All-Rookie picks this season. Cade Cunningham was one last season, after he was the No. 1 pick in 2021. It’s hard to envision how exactly Wembanyama and Cunningham would play together, since there’s still so much mystery about Cunningham’s game, especially after he missed much of this season. But two great young talents surely would figure it out.
Odds: 14%, or about 7-1
Outlook: Ime Udoka is in place as the new coach, there’s a belief around the league that the Rockets will change their roster considerably in free agency — bringing James Harden back, perhaps — and Wembanyama would energize the fan base in many of the same ways Yao Ming’s arrival did.
It would take some shots away from Houston’s young players and adjustments would have to be made. And the pairing of Wembanyama with Alperen Sengun would be so interesting on defense.
Odds: 14%, or about 7-1
Outlook: Gregg Popovich would get another incredibly talented big to build around, just as was the case with David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
The Spurs have flourished with international players, such as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The Spurs haven’t won a playoff series since 2017 and haven’t played in one since 2019. But all the losing, all the drafting, all the player development has built them for this — and Wembanyama would be the springboard to make San Antonio a playoff town again right away.
Odds: 12.5%, or 8-1
Outlook: Maybe this would convince Michael Jordan to not sell the majority stake of the Hornets after all. (Or maybe it’ll just raise his price.) Imagine — the most recognizable player maybe ever, with an iconic brand, getting to draft a kid who is surely going to be a global marketing dream.
As often is the case with top draft picks, much of the attention goes to Wembanyama’s offensive game. But Charlotte is desperately in need of more defense, and Wembanyama will make an immediate impact on that end — which would only further endear him to Hornets coach Steve Clifford. And Wembanyama and LaMelo Ball together would be instantly something to watch.
Odds: 10.5%, or about 10-1
Outlook: Damian Lillard is tired of waiting and wants the Trail Blazers to become a contender. This would be a great start to that plan.
There is a ton of talent in Portland, led by the all-world guard, and the Blazers packed it in early this season with an eye on the draft. And the ping-pong balls don’t care about fairness, but after Sam Bowie and Greg Oden, it surely could be argued that Portland deserves a draft break.
Odds: 9%, or about 11-1
Outlook: Now this would be spicy. If the Magic win the lottery again, the pairing of Paolo Banchero with Wembanyama would give Orlando an immediate shot in the arm.
The Magic were 5-20 and refused to tank. They went 29-28 the rest of the way, and the young core — Banchero, Franz Wagner, Markelle Fultz, etc. — seems like it’s poised for bigger things in the Eastern Conference already. Fultz, like Banchero, was a No. 1 pick as well.
Odds: 6.8%, or about 15-1
Outlook: With Tyrese Haliburton, the Pacers want to play fast. And he would benefit greatly from an athletic big to play pick-and-roll with (as would plenty of other people in the NBA, of course).
There’s a lot to like about Indiana as a landing spot. Championship coach in Rick Carlisle. One of the league’s best atmospheres. Basketball is a religion in Indiana. Make no mistake, they'd be good right away.
Odds: 6.7%, or about 15-1
Outlook: Two things immediately jump off the page with the Wizards. One, Bradley Beal would probably become an even better version with Wembanyama. And two, with Kristaps Porzingis, this might be the rare spot for Wembanyama to not be the tallest player on his own roster.
Odds: 4.5%, or about 22-1
Outlook: Wembanyama is obviously familiar with the Jazz, given his relationship with former Utah center Rudy Gobert. It would be a unique parallel; the Jazz trade Gobert in 2022, fall into the lottery a year later, get Wembanyama to add to a good young cast led by Lauri Markkanen.
Odds: 3%, or about 33-1
Outlook: Dallas raised the NBA’s ire by tanking at the end to protect its lottery odds. If the Mavericks win the lottery and can pair Wembanyama with Luka Doncic — and perhaps Kyrie Irving — the $750,000 tanking fine might end up as the best money Mark Cuban ever spent.
Odds: 1.8%, or about 55-1
Outlook: DeMar DeRozan would be a great first vet for Wembanyama to open his NBA career with and learn from.
Odds: 1.7%, or about 60-1
Outlook: The Thunder were one of the best stories in the league this season with a budding star like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and last year’s No. 2 pick — Chet Holmgren — set to make his NBA debut this fall. Put Wembanyama on the Thunder, and it’ll be scary.
Odds: 1%, or 100-1
Outlook: The Raptors will have a new coach and nobody knows what direction they’re going yet this summer. Wembanyama would surely change some of their plans.
Odds: 0.5%, or 200-1
Outlook: Everyone can see the Pelicans’ potential, even with the annual mystery of how durable Zion Williamson will (or won’t) be. To overcome 200-1 odds would be just amazing luck, and as the city’s motto goes, it would truly mean that the good times will roll in New Orleans.
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Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press