The San Antonio Spurs have won the No. 1 pick in the NBA’s Draft Lottery, clearing the way for them to select French phenom Victor Wembanyama in June’s draft.
The Spurs were tied for the best odds to win the top prize in Tuesday’s Draft Lottery. The Spurs beat out the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons, each having a 14% chance to win the top pick. Odds were not in the favor of Detroit, who had the worst record in the league but fell out of the top four picks.
The NBA “flattened” lottery odds in 2017 in an effort to deter teams from intentionally losing games to better their draft odds, a practice known among NBA circles as “tanking.”
Despite reduced odds for the league’s worst teams, there was no shortage of NBA franchises willing to spend a season in the muck for any chance to be the team to ultimately draft Wembanyama.
The 7-foot-5 French center is widely regarded as the most dominant and high-upside NBA prospect since LeBron James. He’s been on NBA Draft radar since his early teens and his French club’s games have been broadcast to international audiences in anticipation of his eventual NBA arrival.
Enthusiasm over the 19-year-old’s rare size has been eclipsed only by his unique set of skills. He’s both a dominant shot-blocker and a polished perimeter player with guard skills and a shooting stroke that is uncommon for athletes of his stature.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who pioneered NBA Draft coverage trough his site DraftExpress, described Wembanyama as the whole package on defense, with an eight-foot wingspan, tremendous instincts and anticipation skills.
This is the third time the San Antonio Spurs won the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. The team previously selected Hall-of-Famers David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997. They will almost certainly use this year’s No. 1 pick on Wembanyama.
The lucky lottery bounce gives Gregg Popovich, one of the league’s most revered head coaches in history, a chance to coach the most coveted prospect in decades.
“I’m trying to win a ring ASAP,” Wembanyama told ESPN after the lottery results. “So be ready.”
In addition to Duncan and Robinson, Popovich has a long history of turning international prospects into championship contributors, including Hall-of-Famers Manu Ginobili and Wembanyama’s countryman, Tony Parker. Boris Diaw, another Frenchman, won the 2014 NBA Finals under Popovich, playing a key role in the Spurs rotation.
The 2023 NBA Draft Order is as follows:
- San Antonio Spurs
- Charlotte Hornets
- Portland Trailblazers
- Houston Rockets
- Detroit Pistons
- Orlando Magic
- Indiana Pacers
- Washington Wizards
- Utah Jazz
- Dallas Mavericks
- Orlando Magic (via Chicago)
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Toronto Raptors
- New Orleans Pelican
Barring anything unprecedented, Victor Wembanyama will be suiting up for the Spurs. Selecting second, the Charlotte Hornets will have their choice between Alabama wing Brandon Miller and G-League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson.
The NBA Draft Lottery is broadcast on ESPN and is held each year to determine the top 14 picks in the the upcoming season’s draft. The draft allows for college and international players to add their names into the draft pool, with hopes of being selected by a team as part of the next crop of NBA stars.
The lottery itself is done moments before the broadcast in a separate room and is witnessed by select NBA officials and media members, as well as representatives from Ernst & Young, one of the largest accounting and auditing firms in the world.
Only those in that room are aware of the results of the lottery prior to the reveal on live television.
The NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 22, just days after the completion of the NBA Finals.