Fortunes Change After Eventful NBA Draft Lottery


Donovan Perez Schipper, Sports Editor

The NBA Draft Lottery took place on Tuesday, May 16. While teams are seeded in reverse order of their regular season standings to determine their draft position, the lottery was implemented to prevent tanking for the best player in the draft. Teams that do not make the playoffs are awarded a set amount of entries; the more entries a team has under its belt, the more your team struggles throughout the regular season. The system was overhauled due to the continued practice of banking, making the odds more uniform so that the relative value of tanking is very low since the spread between the worst team and the seventh-worst team was now marginal in terms of lottery probability. 


This has brought a sense of intrigue to the draft lottery in recent years. With recent talented prospects like Zion Williamson or Anthony Edwards, the draft lottery can easily change the fortunes of an entire franchise. The ping-pong balls have gone many different ways since this system was implemented, but undoubtedly one of the most favored teams has been the San Antonio Spurs. Different iterations of this theme have seen the Spurs draft Hall of Fame big men David Robinson and Tim Duncan. For all their luck in drafting big men, the law of averages would suggest that they would not once again get the luck of the draw now that the prize is generational talent Victor Wembanyama… right?


Victor Wembanyama has been hyped in NBA Draft circles since he was barely in middle school. His guard skills and elite defense is a combination never before seen in the NBA, so highlight reels of an extraordinary talent like that were a source of excitement for scouts everywhere. Many hyped prospects never meet the lofty expectations set out for them, which is seemingly the case for the standout from Eastern Michigan University, Emoni Bates. He was likened to Kevin Durant out of high school, and his talent has shown in bursts, but his inability to stay out of trouble and contribute to winning in basketball has caused his stock to drop. He is now considered a likely second-round pick. On the other hand, Wembanyama, as a teenager, has dominated the French professional league and proven himself worthy despite criticisms that his wiry frame would not hold up against adults. After winning both Defensive Player of the Year and the MVP award, Wembanyama has nothing left to prove in European basketball. 


With Wembanyama, or “Wemby,” set to be the prized prospect this season, teams clamoring for a quick move up the standings were hoping for some luck with the ping-pong balls that determine the draft order. The two final teams that were to be announced were the San Antonio Spurs and the Charlotte Hornets, confirming that those two teams held the top two picks. While presumptive consolation choices Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller are elite prospects in their own right, Wembanyama has been dubbed as the best prospect since LeBron James. Suffice to say that neither team would be completely satisfied with second place in this race. 


After a few moments of suspense, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announced that the top pick would be going to the San Antonio Spurs. Again. The Spurs will build their roster around a player who is likely to have basketball fans reimagine what is possible on the court, and legendary coach Gregg Popovich will once again oversee the construction of a dynasty. While the Spurs do not have much talent on their team as it stands, young players like Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan make for a promising young frontcourt with Wemby, to go along with dependable guards Tre Jones and Devin Vassell. This team may not compete for much now, but it will be entertaining to see how this young nucleus develops over time. 


While the first pick is all but set in stone, the NBA Draft will occur on June 22, 2023, at the Barclays Center. While many teams will set their sights on a potentially franchise-altering prospect, the selection of Wembanyama promises to be the most consequential draft choice in recent memory. 


Image Courtesy of Michael Tipton of Flickr