French basketball prodigy Victor Wembanyama will discover where he is likely to launch his NBA career on Tuesday when the league holds its lottery to determine which team will get first choice in next month’s draft.
Barring a monumental surprise, the gifted 19-year-old from the outskirts of Paris is widely expected to be chosen with the No.1 pick when the latest crop of basketball talent entering the league goes up for grabs in New York on June 22.
However, the suspense surrounding the Frenchman’s career path will be removed on Tuesday when the NBA holds its lottery to decide which team what is effectively the Wembanyama sweepstakes.
Under the NBA’s lottery format, the 14 teams that failed to reach the playoffs are all in the running to land the top pick.
Up until four years ago, the team with the worst regular-season record had the strongest probability of being granted the top pick.
However, the lottery rules were tweaked in 2019 to even the odds in an effort to deter teams from deliberately losing or “tanking” to gain the top pick.
Now three of the 14 lottery teams will go into Tuesday’s draw with the same elevated 14% chance of landing Wembanyama.
The three teams at the front of the queue are the Detroit Pistons, who finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a league-worst 17-65 record, along with the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, who finished 14th and 15th in the West with identical 22-60 records.
After those three teams, the order of probability is headed by Charlotte (12.5%), Portland (10.5%), Orlando (9%), Indiana (6.8%), Washington (6.7%), Utah (4 .5%), Dallas (3%), Chicago (1.8%), Oklahoma City (1.7%), Toronto (1%) and New Orleans (0.5%).
Wembanyama admitted last month he was still adjusting to the fact that his dream of playing in the NBA is soon to be a reality.
“It’s something crazy I’m not realizing yet,” Wembanyama told ESPN after declaring for the draft. “I realized pretty young I wanted to play in the NBA but it becomes a reality more every day. I’m so lucky to have this dream within the reach of my hand.”
Wembanyama is also unfazed by the prospect of joining a team who are unlikely to be in a position to challenge for championships immediately, stating simply in an interview earlier this year: “There is no wrong team.”
Whoever does win the race for Wembanyama’s services, however, will be obtaining a transformational talent.
The teenager’s size — he stands a towering 7ft 2in (2.21m) — and smooth shooting touch have left long-time NBA watchers salivating at his potential.
Asked for his opinion on Wembanyama last October, LeBron James said the Frenchman’s skill-set made him less a “unicorn” and “more like an alien.”
“No one has ever seen someone as tall as he is and as fluid and as graceful as he is on the floor,” James said. “He’s for sure a generational talent.”
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