Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery

Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyTwitter LogoFeatured Columnist IVMay 17, 2023


Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery

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    Victor Wembanyama

    Victor WembanyamaChristian Liewig – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

    In the lead-up to ESPN’s broadcast of the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery, Adrian Wojnarowski said Victor Wembanyama “may be the greatest prospect in the history of team sports.”

    He added that team executives had told him Wembanyama could be the best offensive and defensive player in the NBA by his third year.

    No pressure, right?

    Well, after Tuesday’s lottery, it appears the generational French talent couldn’t be headed to a much better situation.

    The San Antonio Spurs landed the top pick, and it’s already a foregone conclusion that Wembanyama will be taken first overall.

    Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

    Pop pulling up to the airport to pick up Wemby

    Of course, that makes the Spurs the biggest winner of the night, but they weren’t the only ones.

    SportsCenter @SportsCenter

    The #NBADraftLottery order is set 🍿👀

    The night’s biggest winners and losers can be found below.

Winner: Dallas Mavericks

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    Luka Dončić

    Luka DončićTim Heitman/Getty Images

    The first nine picks revealed on Tuesday didn’t give any surprises. All nine stayed in their pre-lottery position, which means the Dallas Mavericks’ choice to punt the end of its regular season and remain in the lottery paid off.

    Had Dallas been bumped outside the top 10, the pick would’ve gone to the New York Knicks (as part of 2019’s Kristaps Porziņģis trade).

    Instead of giving up the asset, the Mavericks can now supplement their core with a top-10 prospect. And if that isn’t intriguing to Luka Dončić, who may be feeling a little antsy after missing the postseason, it would certainly improve any trade packages Dallas might throw out prior to 2023-24.

    Either way, the Mavs are obviously in a better position than they would’ve been without a top-10 pick. And though the way they kept it was a little unseemly (and cost them a $750,000 fine), it’s not hard to see why they did it.

    It was a gamble, but the upside outweighed the risk.

Loser: Detroit Pistons

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    Cade Cunningham

    Cade CunninghamVaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Detroit Pistons had the worst record in the NBA. And it wasn’t close. Their 17 wins were five shy of the next worst teams (the Spurs and Houston Rockets).

    After a year of pain, losing and the absence of Cade Cunningham (for all but 12 games), all Detroit got for its troubles was the biggest slide in the lottery.

    The Pistons were tied with Houston and San Antonio for the best odds to land the top pick, and they wound up at No. 5.

    Of course, there is still talent to be had at that spot. There are always players who outperform their draft position. But no one in this class looks as close to a sure thing as Wembanyama.

    And beyond his incredible talent and physical profile, he seemed like a tailor-made fit to play alongside Cunningham, whose own size and playmaking would’ve made for an ideal pick-and-roll partner.

Loser: Houston Rockets

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    Jalen Green

    Jalen GreenStephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Rockets were the other team that tumbled out of a 14 percent chance to land Wembanyama, and many of the Pistons points apply to them.

    Of course, at No. 4, they didn’t fall quite as far, and they still have plenty of intriguing young talent in place, including a big.

    Alperen Şengün and Wembanyama probably could’ve co-existed just fine. Both have relatively advanced perimeter games for players of their size. But at least fans have something to cushion the blow of not landing the potential franchise altering talent.

    Like Detroit, though, it would’ve been nice to see Houston’s young playmaker, Jalen Green, get a chance to work with Wemby.

    He’s not the creator Cunningham is, but a target like the incoming Frenchman certainly would’ve made it easier to want to pass.

Winner: San Antonio Spurs

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    Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich

    Tim Duncan and Gregg PopovichChris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images

    The 1995-96 Spurs won 59 games. In 1996-97, due in large part to an injury that limited David Robinson to six appearances, they won 20.

    That, of course, led to the selection of Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick in 1997.

    Nearly three decades later, and after a little longer struggle to collect wins (the Spurs are 27th in the league in winning percentage over the last four seasons), San Antonio is back at the top of the draft.

    And once again, there’s a generational big man awaiting them there.

    The Spurs don’t have an Admiral ready to come back this time around. They won’t be a ready-made contender like the one Duncan joined. But Wembanyama certainly gives them a better chance to get back to that level.

    And somehow, Gregg Popovich being able to bookend his legendary coaching career with one of the best big men of all time and another who has that kind of potential feels fitting.

Winner: Victor Wembanyama

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    Victor Wembanyama

    Victor WembanyamaChristian Liewig – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

    San Antonio has fallen on hard times, but much of the infrastructure that allowed them to dominate for two decades remains.

    Few organizations seem like a safer bet for Wembanyama’s development.

    Again, the expectations surrounding him are immense. Having the biggest name in the basketball-reporting business say you might be the greatest prospect in the history of team sports on national television must be daunting.

    But the Spurs will take their time with Wembanyama’s development. They’ll teach him to play basketball the right way. Even during these last few years without a star, the team principles that led them to championships were still in place.

    They’ll remain so with Wembanyama, who will have a real chance to walk in Duncan’s footsteps.

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