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NBA Draft Lottery 2023: Ranking the best Victor Wembanyama destinations

Ranking the most fun Wembanyama destinations among lottery teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

This is going to be a franchise-altering week for one NBA team.

The 2023 NBA Draft Lottery set for Tuesday is possibly the most anticipated drawing for the No. 1 overall pick since 2003. That’s because, just like LeBron James in 2003, this year’s draft class boasts a once-in-a-gereration-type prospect.

Victor Wembanyama became a household name among NBA fans back in October when his French club played two exhibition games against the G League Ignite in Las Vegas. The 19-year-old French phenom who reportedly stands 7-foot-5 totaled 73 points, nine blocks and nine made 3-pointers across the two contests, showcasing his staggering perimeter skills and two-way ability. Since then, Wembanyama has been a lock for the No. 1 pick.

Fourteen teams will enter the lottery with a chance to secure the rare talent. But before the ping pong balls start bouncing, let’s take a look at the best potential landing spots for Wemby from the least to most fun.

14. Washington Wizards

Odds for No. 1 pick: 6.7%

Giving Bradley Beal $251 million and a no-trade clause should automatically disqualify you from the Wemby sweepstakes.

13. San Antonio Spurs

Odds for No. 1 pick: 14%

Wembanyama following in the steps of all-time great big men in David Robinson and Tim Duncan by getting drafted by the Spurs and playing for Gregg Popovich would be awesome. Wembanyama’s top two teammates being Keldon Johnson and Malaki Branham…not nearly as much.

12. Houston Rockets

Odds for No. 1 pick: 14%

It’s been two-plus seasons since James Harden left Houston…and possibly the most exciting thing about the franchise right now is that the Beard could be on his way back soon. Jalen Green is full of potential, Alperen “Baby Joker” Şengün is an interesting piece and Jabari Smith Jr. had some moments as a rookie, but there are simply better situations out there.

11. Toronto Raptors

Odds for No. 1 pick: 1%

Wembanyama feels like a Raptor in that he’s a long, rangy athlete. However, putting him on a team with several other long, rangy athletes in Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, O.G. Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa while not having a lead guard in place (Fred VanVleet has a player option for next season) sounds more like a basketball experiment than a fun situation.

10. Detroit Pistons

Odds for No. 1 pick: 14%

Had Cade Cunningham played more than 12 games this season, Detroit probably would have been higher. But we just don’t yet know enough about the former No. 1 pick, along with fellow youngsters Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren.

9. Chicago Bulls

Odds for No. 1 pick: 1.8%

An argument can easily be made for the Bulls to be higher. They’re a storied NBA franchise that can welcome Wembanyama into a situation with two stars in Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, and the chance to compete right away.

What the Bulls lack, however, is what nearly every team ahead of them can offer: either a superstar, or a young star that Wemby can grow with.

8. Utah Jazz

Odds for No. 1 pick: 4.5%

The combination of size, skill and shooting that Wemby and All-Star Lauri Markkanen each possess would make them quite the sight to see as a combo. And thanks to the Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell trades, the Jazz would be set up to acquire more talent to place around those two. It’s just hard to rank Utah much higher without knowing what those draft picks turn into, though.

7. Charlotte Hornets

Odds for No. 1 pick: 12.5%

LaMelo Ball and Wembanyama would instantly become the NBA’s best and most exciting young duo. But can we really trust this franchise to correctly build around them and keep them happy?

6. Indiana Pacers

Odds for No. 1 pick: 6.8%

The Pacers went 28-28 with Tyrese Haliburton in the lineup this season and it’s easy to see the All-Star guard, who’s quickly established himself as one of the league’s better playmakers, forming a lethal two-man game with Wemby. Indiana also boasts some other intriguing young pieces like Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, and have a good head coach in Rick Carlisle.

5. Orlando Magic

Odds for No. 1 pick: 9%

How does this sound: A young Big Three of Wemby, Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner surrounded by solid complimentary pieces in Markelle Fultz, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Harris and Cole Anthony. And how about a free-agent addition of Fred VanVleet as a veteran lead ball-handler? *Insert Jack Nicholson nodding yes GIF*

4. Portland Trail Blazers

Odds for No. 1 pick: 10.5%

Damian Lillard has been questioned by some for not “running from the grind” and forcing his way out of Portland. But Lillard can get the last laugh on that front if riding it out with the Trail Blazers results in teaming up with Wembanyama. Pair Dame with Wemby, trade Anfernee Simons or Shaedon Sharpe for a wing, and the Blazers look prettttttyyyyy good.

3. New Orleans Pelicans

Odds for No. 1 pick: 0.5%

If there was a way to turn injuries off like in NBA 2K, the Pelicans would have a real case for the No. 1 spot. Wemby and Zion Williamson sharing the court together would be appointment television. And at one this point this season, the Pelicans looked like a legitimate contender in the West.

Unfortunately, their season went off the rails after Williamson was sidelined with what turned out to be a season-ending hamstring injury. The former No. 1 overall pick has now played in just 114 games through his first four seasons.

Still, just the potential of a starting lineup with CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy III, Brandon Ingram, Williamson and Wemby is enough for New Orleans to land in the top three.

2. Dallas Mavericks

Odds for No. 1 pick: 3%

Jalen Brunson, who? After having to watch Brunson’s breakout year and Dallas make a semi-panic midseason trade for Kyrie Irving, Mavericks fans would let out a collective sigh of relief at landing the No. 1 overall pick.

Wemby would finally provide the Mavs with the Robin to Luka Doncic’s Batman that they’ve been searching for, while making Irving’s impending free agency much less important. Why even roll the dice with Irving when you might have the NBA’s two best under-25 players on your hands?

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Odds for No. 1 pick: 1.7%

Yes, Doncic is better than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But that’s the end of Dallas’ argument for the top spot.

OKC was the best story in the NBA this season led by a superstar leap from SGA, who finished fifth in MVP voting, and a breakout campaign from Rookie of the Year runner-up Jalen Williams. The Thunder went 40-42 and made the Play-In Tournament without No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren even logging a single minute.

Imagine getting to watch Wemby and Holmgren debut together and try to figure out how to play with one another while being surrounded by SGA, Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey and Lugentz Dort? And, in the background, Sam Presti gets to work the phones with a boatload of draft assets at his disposal.
 
A superstar? Check. A young and exciting supporting cast? Check. Cap and draft flexibility? Check. An elite general manager? Check. The Thunder are clearly the best destination for Wemby, and it’s not even close.