Victor Wembanyama San Antonio bound, Spurs win draft lottery
May 16, 2023, 5:49 PM
(Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
A moment that potentially plays a part in shaping the NBA for the next decade-plus occurred on Tuesday night and was decided by ping pong balls.
The San Antonio Spurs won the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery, or more accurately, the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.
The 7-foot-5 19-year-old Frenchman is widely thought of as one of the best draft prospects of all time. Looking strictly at how they were evaluated before the draft, Wembanyama goes alongside the likes of Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Zion Williamson and others on a shortlist of phenoms the league believed would be a superstar in the near-distant future.
Wembanyama is a testament to how basketball is changing. At his size with an eight-foot wingspan, he has guard skills with the ball, including the way he handles and shoots it. Additionally, he is incredibly athletic, moving like most forwards. And then, of course, Wembanyama at that size will envelop any shots around the rim and grab any misses.
The NBA made sure to televise Wembanyama’s French club Metropolitans 92 whenever possible, including some exhibitions in the United States. Phoenix Suns guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul were in attendance for the October showcase that put Metropolitans 92 in Las Vegas against the G League Ignite, home to the likely No. 2 pick, guard Scoot Henderson.
Henderson or Alabama wing Brandon Miller would be graded as a decent return for the top pick in other years, meaning there is a ludicrous amount of talent at the top three of the draft. Henderson’s a prototypical modern lead guard with his terrific combination of ball-handling and explosiveness that he uses to physically manipulate his way into open space where his athleticism and skill take over. Ditto for Miller as a wing, possessing shot-making and defensive upside all teams crave with the direction positionless basketball is heading.
Speaking of Duncan, this is the third time San Antonio has had the No. 1 pick in a draft with a highly touted big man. Duncan and David Robinson were the two others. Those worked out pretty well! Duncan’s first of five championships with the Spurs came in 1999, one of two he won with the Hall of Famer Robinson.
Wembanyama instantly pushes San Antonio up a few pegs on the future power rankings in the Western Conference. The Spurs have a few fine young players, such as Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Devin Vassell, but not a clear-cut high-end talent like Wembanyama. That is the effect a prospect like Wembanyama can have on a franchise. San Antonio surely didn’t look at its young core as one that could be contending in due time but those expectations not only exist now but are cemented after Tuesday.
The biggest loser of the lottery was the Detroit Pistons. They finished with the league’s worst record, 17-55, and dropped to fifth, a new reality of the league’s tweaked lottery odds. The Portland Trail Blazers jumped from fifth to third, putting them in a position for Henderson or Miller to learn under the tutelage of franchise icon Damian Lillard.
The Charlotte Hornets are second, and the Houston Rockets were another big loser, dropping out of the top-3 for a top-heavy class to fourth.