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Who has the best chance to draft Victor Wembanyama?

Victor Wembanyama has emerged as the clear number one prospect for the 2023 NBA draft after his phenomenal showing in two exhibition games in the United States in October 2022. The 7’4” French phenom displayed unique athleticism and skill for a big man, cementing himself as a generational talent that NBA teams are already jockeying for position to draft next June. Wembanyama looks like a transformational two-way force that could turnaround a franchise.

What makes Victor Wembanyama special?

At just 18 years old, Wembanyama possesses an incredible combination of size, length, athleticism, and basketball skill:

– Size: At 7’4″ with an enormous 8’0″ wingspan, Wembanyama has measurements that surpass any current NBA player. He makes players like Rudy Gobert look small in comparison.

– Athleticism: Despite his giant frame, Wembanyama is nimble and coordinated with guard-like fluidity. He runs the floor well, has quick leaping ability, and moves smoothly for his size.

– Skill: Wembanyama handles the ball comfortably, has good vision and passing instincts, and can stretch the floor with his three-point shot. He demonstrated polished footwork and shot creation skills normally seen in wing players.

– Defense: Using his size and mobility, Wembanyama is an elite rim protector able to block shots and defend the paint at a high level. He also has the agility to switch onto smaller players on the perimeter.

Wembanyama’s physical tools and diverse, advanced skill set for a big man give him sky-high potential. He has the makings of a basketball unicorn the NBA has rarely seen before.

Who has the best odds for the #1 pick in 2023 NBA Draft?

The 2023 NBA Draft Lottery will determine which team has the best odds to land the #1 pick and select Wembanyama. The lottery odds are based on the regular season records of teams that miss the playoffs, with the teams with the worst records having the best chances.

Below are the current projected lottery odds for the 2023 draft (as of October 2022 before the NBA regular season begins):

Team 2021-22 Record Projected 2022-23 Record Lottery Odds
San Antonio Spurs 34-48 20-62 14%
Utah Jazz 49-33 24-58 14%
Houston Rockets 20-62 23-59 14%
Oklahoma City Thunder 24-58 23-59 12.5%
Detroit Pistons 23-59 22-60 10.5%
Orlando Magic 22-60 22-60 9%
Indiana Pacers 25-57 21-61 7.5%
Portland Trail Blazers 27-55 20-62 6%
Sacramento Kings 30-52 19-63 4.5%
Washington Wizards 35-47 18-64 3%

The Spurs, Jazz and Rockets are projected to be the league’s worst teams this season based on current roster outlooks, giving them the best lottery odds for the #1 pick and best chances to draft Wembanyama. The Thunder and Pistons also have strong odds to move into the top spots.

Of course, the actual draft order will depend on how teams perform and the results of the lottery. But the teams projected to be at the bottom of the standings have the most favorable odds to win the lottery as of now.

How are teams positioning themselves for Wembanyama?

Multiple teams appear to be making moves focused on the short-term goal of improving their odds for the 2023 draft:

– **Utah Jazz**: After trading Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz are embracing a full rebuild centered around acquiring young players and draft picks. They will field an extremely young and inexperienced roster this season.

– **San Antonio Spurs**: The Spurs traded All-Star Dejounte Murray for future draft capital. They will give their young players like Devin Vassell expanded roles but do not have enough high-end talent to be competitive.

– **Houston Rockets**: The Rockets have not made significant roster improvements and are accumulating losses as they develop their young core. They own the Brooklyn Nets’ next four first round picks (2023-2026) unprotected.

– **Oklahoma City Thunder**: The Thunder traded away veterans like Paul George and Chris Paul to stockpile draft picks. They have 17 first round picks over the next seven drafts and have no incentive to improve short-term.

– **Indiana Pacers**: After trading away Malcolm Brogdon and TJ Warren, the Pacers are building around Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin but lack the talent to contend in the East yet.

These teams are keeping their rosters young and remaining non-competitive, hoping to have the highest possible odds for Wembanyama next May.

Chances of top teams landing the #1 pick

While the league’s worst teams have the best lottery odds, there is always a possibility that a team that just misses the playoffs vaults into the top spot. Here are the odds of some projected playoff teams landing the #1 pick:

Team Projected 2022-23 Record Lottery Odds
Los Angeles Lakers 43-39 (10th in West) 2%
Portland Trail Blazers 45-37 (9th in West) 1.5%
Washington Wizards 39-43 (10th in East) 1%

The odds are slim but non-zero that a team like the Lakers that is projected to compete for a playoff spot jumps up to #1 in the lottery. This would require very fortuitous lottery luck. But there have been some unlikely lottery leaps in the past, like Cleveland jumping to #1 in 2014 despite having just a 1.7% chance to land the top pick.

Impact of new draft lottery odds

The NBA recently flattened the lottery odds starting in 2019 to reduce the incentive for blatant tanking. The three worst teams now each have a 14% chance for the #1 pick instead of the worst team having a 25% chance pre-2019. This levels the playing field and introduces more variance in the draft order.

Based on the new lottery odds, there is about a 72% chance that one of the projected top-5 teams (Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, Thunder, Pistons) lands the #1 pick. But there’s also about a 28% chance the #1 pick goes to a team projected outside the top-5, adding unpredictability to the proceedings.

The reformed lottery odds make it harder but not impossible for a projected playoff team like the Lakers to vault up. But it does mean the Spurs, Jazz and Rockets can’t bank on having Wembanyama fall into their laps just by being the worst few teams in the league.

Teams that missed out on recent #1 picks

Some teams may be especially hungry for draft lottery luck after just missing out on recent potential franchise cornerstones like Zion Williamson, Anthony Edwards, and Paolo Banchero as #1 overall picks:

Draft Year #1 Pick Team that Missed
2019 Zion Williamson New York Knicks (3rd pick)
2020 Anthony Edwards Golden State Warriors (2nd pick)
2022 Paolo Banchero Oklahoma City Thunder (2nd pick)

The Knicks, Warriors, and Thunder all had strong lottery odds those years but just missed out on drafting the consensus top prospect. These teams and their fans are surely hoping the lottery bounces their way in 2023 to make up for prior disappointing outcomes.

Impact of new draft rules for worst teams

Beyond the lottery, new NBA draft rules further disincentivize teams from overtly tanking to try to lock up the very worst record.

Starting in 2019, the three worst teams can each only move up a maximum of four spots in the draft order. So the team with the worst record is guaranteed to draft no lower than fifth. This reduces the marginal value of having the absolute worst record compared to the next few worst teams.

The NBA also introduced rules combating the practice of teams resting healthy veterans for long stretches late in the season once eliminated from playoff contention.

These rules make it even more difficult for bad teams to race to the bottom for better lottery odds. Multiple teams may packed together with similar terrible records.

Impact of 2023 draft format changes

The 2023 NBA Draft will utilize a new “wheel” format for just the first round. This pre-sets the draft order based on each team’s selection position from the prior two years. It removes the impact of regular season record on first round positioning.

This means the ultimate draft order for most teams will be determined well in advance of the 2023 season beginning. Only the top-4 picks will be determined by the draft lottery.

The main purpose is reducing incentives to tank for better first round picks at the end of the season. But it also shakes up team strategies for trading future first rounders.

Key dates for 2023 Draft

Here are some key dates in the 2023 draft process:

– **May 16, 2023**: NBA draft lottery to determine order of top 4 picks

– **June 1, 2023**: NBA draft combine for prospects to showcase abilities

– **June 5, 2023**: Early entry eligibility deadline for prospects

– **June 22, 2023**: 2023 NBA draft

The draft lottery on May 16 will be the biggest night that shapes the Wembanyama sweepstakes. NBA teams will be on the edge of their seats watching the ping pong balls fall, determining which franchises ultimately have the chance to select the #1 prospect.

Past examples of tanking for a top prospect

There is some precedent for NBA teams angling to draft a hyped prospect:

– In 1984, the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers engaged in a race to the bottom to try to draft Hakeem Olajuwon, with Houston finishing with the worst record to select Olajuwon first overall.

– In 1996-97, the Boston Celtics traded away veteran assets to accumulate losses and improve their lottery odds for the following year’s draft, when Tim Duncan would become available after graduating college. The Celtics finished with the 2nd worst record but did not win the 1997 lottery to draft Duncan, who went to the Spurs 1st overall.

– In 2012-13, the Philadelphia 76ers initiated an extreme multi-year tanking plan to try to draft Andrew Wiggins in 2014. However, the 76ers instead drafted Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with the #3 picks in the 2014 and 2016 drafts resulting from their tanking years.

– In 2018-19, the New York Knicks traded their star Kristaps Porzingis mid-season in part to boost their lottery odds for 2019 when Zion Williamson would enter the draft. Their gambit did not pay off, as the Knicks got the 3rd pick while New Orleans won the lottery to draft Zion.

The Wembanyama sweepstakes has prompted teams like the Jazz and Spurs to make win-later trades of their veterans, trying to replicate successful tanking years of the past that landed franchises elite talent like Olajuwon or Duncan.

Criteria for projecting future draft positions

Projecting the 2022-23 NBA standings and draft order is an inexact science. But here are some factors that can inform projections:

– **Previous season’s record**: Teams that finished near the bottom of the standings tend to still be relatively poor the following season without major roster upgrades.

– **Roster continuity**: Teams bringing back much of the same roster without much turnover generally have similar quality and record year-to-year.

– **Impact of trades/free agency**: Offseason player acquisitions and departures can significantly alter a team’s fortunes if star players change teams.

– **Team health**: Injury luck plays a role, as healthy and deep teams tend to outperform teams derailed by injuries to key players.

– **Player development**: Younger teams counting on internal improvement from their prospects advancing usually improve gradually over several seasons.

– **Coaching changes**: New coaches installing different systems can shake up a team’s effectiveness and number of wins.

– **Team incentives**: Some teams have incentive to maximize draft lottery odds by keeping rosters young and non-competitive even if it means sacrificing wins.

Considering these factors can help identify teams likely to shift dramatically up or down the standings in 2022-23. But randomness and luck remain big drivers of each season’s final records.

Analysis of Spurs’ approach

The San Antonio Spurs stand out as a team embracing a rebuild focused on the short-term goal of improving their 2023 draft lottery odds. This summer, the Spurs:

– Traded All-Star Dejounte Murray to Atlanta for Danilo Gallinari and multiple first round picks

– Let Lonnie Walker IV walk away in free agency

– Remain unlikely to extend Josh Richardson

– Signed zero impact free agents

The Spurs now project to start young, offense-challenged prospects like Devin Vassell, Joshua Primo and Tre Jones in the backcourt. They lack scoring punch or any go-to offensive options.

This sets up the Spurs for an aimless season of accumulating losses without Murray’s All-Star production carrying them to competitiveness. They are prioritizing their chances in the Wembanyama sweepstakes over respectability next season.

The Spurs hope to replicate previous contenders like the 1996-97 Celtics that used strategic tanking to land a franchise player like Tim Duncan in the draft lottery. Getting Wembanyama could similarly transform San Antonio’s outlook for the next decade.

Analysis of Thunder’s approach

After having the second best lottery odds in 2022 but ending up with the fourth pick, the Thunder may be determined to improve their lottery chances in 2023. OKC has:

– The most draft capital of any NBA team over the next seven years with 17 first round picks through 2029

– Promising young core in place with Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren

– No incentive to make win-now trades for veterans that could sacrifice a higher 2023 draft pick

The Thunder have been patiently rebuilding through the draft after trading away stars like Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Chris Paul for a war chest of picks. Even with young standouts like Gilgeous Alexander and the 2022 #2 pick Chet Holmgren, the Thunder seem unlikely to accelerate their organizational timeline to improve before 2023.

The Thunder have the picks and flexibility to add a true franchise cornerstone like Wembanyama to their talented youth core. This could set Oklahoma City up to quickly emerge as contenders down the road. Their patient rebuild philosophy points to again prioritizing draft lottery odds in the 2022-23 season.


The 2023 draft lottery has the makings to be one of the most consequential ever with Victor Wembanyama available as a generational talent worthy of tanking for. The flattened lottery odds and new first round wheel format reduce some incentive for teams to purposely bottom out. But clubs like the Spurs and Thunder appear to be strategically positioning their rosters to boost lottery odds next May.

Small market teams that have been mired in rebuilds for years have the opportunity to change their franchise trajectories for the better. But the new rules also allow for more variance and unpredictability in the final lottery results. One great night of lottery luck could alter the fate of a franchise and the entire NBA landscape for the next decade. All eyes will be transfixed on the ping pong ball bounce that determines who wins the Wembanyama sweepstakes in 2023.