I have always been fascinated by the NBA draft lottery, the event that determines the order of selection for the first 14 picks of the NBA draft. It’s a combination of luck, strategy and drama that can change the fortunes of a franchise in an instant. That’s why I was glued to my TV on Tuesday night, when the 2023 NBA draft lottery was held.
The stakes were high this year, as the top prize was Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-3 French phenom who is widely regarded as one of the best prospects ever. He has a rare combination of size, skill, athleticism and versatility that makes him a potential superstar in the league. He can shoot from anywhere, handle the ball, pass, rebound, block shots and defend multiple positions. He is a generational talent that any team would love to have.
The teams with the best odds of landing him were the Detroit Pistons, the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs, who each had a 14% chance of winning the lottery. The other teams in the mix were the Charlotte Hornets, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Orlando Magic, the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards, the Utah Jazz, the Dallas Mavericks, the Chicago Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Toronto Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans.
The tension was palpable as NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the results in reverse order. The Pelicans got the 14th pick, followed by the Raptors, the Thunder and the Bulls. The Mavericks got the 10th pick, which they had to convey to the New York Knicks as part of a previous trade. The Jazz got the ninth pick, followed by the Wizards and the Pacers.
The Magic got the seventh pick, which they had acquired from the Bulls in another trade. The Rockets fell to the sixth pick, which was a huge disappointment for them after having one of the worst seasons in franchise history. The Blazers moved up to the fifth pick, which was a nice surprise for them after missing out on the playoffs.
The top four picks were still up for grabs. The Hornets got the fourth pick, which was a decent outcome for them after having a promising season led by rookie sensation LaMelo Ball. The Pistons got the third pick, which was a letdown for them after having tied for the worst record in the league.
It all came down to two teams: the Spurs and the Rockets. One of them would get Wembanyama and potentially change their future for years to come. The other would have to settle for another prospect who might not have as much upside.
Silver opened the envelope and revealed that the second pick went to…the Rockets. That meant that the Spurs had won the lottery and secured Wembanyama as their next franchise player.
I was stunned by this outcome. The Spurs had been one of the most successful teams in NBA history under coach Gregg Popovich, who had led them to five championships with stars like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. They had also been known for finding and developing international talent like Parker (France), Ginobili (Argentina) and Kawhi Leonard (Canada). Now they had landed another foreign gem in Wembanyama, who could be their next cornerstone for years to come.
I couldn’t help but feel happy for them. They had been through some tough times recently, missing out on the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and losing some of their key players to retirement or free agency. They deserved some good luck and a chance to rebuild their dynasty.
I also felt sorry for the Rockets, who had been through a lot of turmoil and drama in recent years. They had traded away James Harden, their former MVP and franchise player, after he demanded out of Houston. They had also dealt with injuries, COVID-19 outbreaks and poor performance on both ends of the floor. They had hoped to get Wembanyama as their new star and leader, but instead they had to settle for someone else.
I wondered who they would pick with their second pick. Would they go for Chet Holmgren, another 7-footer with a versatile skill set? Would they opt for Paolo Banchero, a powerful forward with a polished game? Would they take Jaden Hardy, a dynamic scorer who skipped college to play in the G League? Or would they surprise everyone with someone else?
I was curious to see how this draft would play out. There were so many talented players in this class that could make an impact in different ways. There were also so many teams that could use some help and hope for their future.
The NBA draft lottery was over, but it was just the beginning of an exciting offseason. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.