2023 The NBA Draft The lottery, it is It takes place on Tuesday, will be remembered as the “Vembaniyama Sweepstakes” because French phenom Victor Vembaniyama is universally expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft. At 7-foot-2 with tight handles and a smooth shot, Vembanyama boasts an insane combination of size and athleticism that has league executives drooling over him. He has already caught the eye of some of the league’s leading players.
“Everybody’s been a unicorn for the past few years, but [Wembanyama] Still looks like an alien.” said Lakers forward LeBron James of Vembaniyama. “Nobody’s ever seen someone as tall as him. Floor ball, shooting stepback jumpers out of the post, stepback 3s, catch and shoot 3s, block shots, he’s definitely a generational talent.”
Vembanyama is an enormous immediate boost — on and off the field — to any organization that can land him, which is why every team wants to land him. But while Vembanyama would be a welcome addition to any team, some potential spots are better than others. Here’s a ranking of each lottery team based on how Vembanyama fits with the franchise, from worst to first.
*The number in parentheses after each team is the team’s percentage chance of winning the draft lottery.
14. Dallas Mavericks (3%): Vembaniyama didn’t need to start his career dealing with the ongoing drama in Dallas. Additionally, playing one of the more ball-dominant guards in Luka Doncic, and another in Kyrie Irving, may not be ideal for Wembley’s early development. He’ll be best suited in a situation where he’s guaranteed to get enough touches from the jump.
13. Washington Wizards (6.7%): Washington doesn’t really have a history of developing young talent, or developing a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. They parted ways with general manager Tommy Shepard in April, so the front office isn’t the league’s most stable. That’s not to say the system can’t boost Vembanayama, but it’s certainly fair to wonder how well it will do there.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (10.5%): Unless they trade Damian Lillard and embark on a complete rebuild this offseason, the Blazers may not be a good fit for Wambaniyama. Lillard has made it clear that he has no interest in being a part of such a rebuild, so as long as he remains on the roster, the Blazers will be in win-now mode. Vembaniyama is best suited to a team that can be patient with his development. Even though he has been playing professionally for years, it may take him a while to get comfortable NBA.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (1.7%): The Thunder have a player similar to Vembanyama who made them the second overall pick in the draft last season in Zed Holmgren. While there’s nothing wrong with stacking talent, the Thunder might want to at least see what’s in Holmgren, who missed all of last season, before investing another high lottery pick at the same spot. It will certainly be fun to watch Wembey play with a Thunder team that won 40 games last season.
10. Toronto Raptors (1%): Too much up in the air for the Raptors right now. They have now fired coach Nick Nurse and have yet to hire a replacement, and the futures of several players on the roster are in question. Toronto has done a good job drafting and developing, so landing Wembey wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but there are certainly more intriguing spots.
9. Utah Jazz (4.5%): The Jazz have a lot of draft picks in their war chest after the recent Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert trades. Adding Vembanyama as a key franchise building block moving forward would be a great start to the Jazz team’s quest for their first NBA title yet. The Jazz have never had the No. 1 pick in the draft before, and this could be a good time for luck to be on Utah’s side.
8. Indiana Pacers (6.8%): Playing alongside Tyrus Halliburton at Indiana could help open things up on the offensive end early in Wembaniyama’s career. Additionally, playing for a well-respected veteran coach with championship experience like Rick Carlisle is beneficial. It might not be the most exciting place for him to land, but it would be a solid one.
7. Charlotte Hornets (12.5%): Charlotte would be an interesting landing spot for Vembanayama. They already have a young star guard in LaMelo Ball, and he and Wembey can play well off each other. If you put some players around those guys, you have a very interesting team. Charlotte drafted a center in Mark Williams in last year’s first round, but they still won’t offer a generational talent like Wembaniyama if given the chance.
6. Houston Rockets (14%): The Rockets already have plenty of young talent at various positions, and they just hired a new head coach in Ime Udoka, who led the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season. It may take a year or two for the team to mature, but the ceiling is high.
5. Chicago Bulls (1.8%)The NBA wants Wembey to land in Chicago because it’s the biggest market of all potential landing spots. Plus, having the future face of the league playing for the franchise, Michael Jordan, would be great from a marketing perspective.
4. Detroit Pistons (14%): The Pistons are in the midst of a complete rebuild, and they already have a number of promising young players, including Kate Cunningham, Jaden Ivy and Jalen Duran, so Wembaniama would fit right in with the team’s timeline. He could be the final piece of the puzzle for Detroit to move forward with one of the best young cores in the league. And Wembey’s star power has the potential to really take off if he’s the guy who leads the Pistons back to prominence.
3. Orlando Magic (9%): Magic is a perfect fit for Vembaniyama. They already have a ton of young talent on the roster, but not necessarily at the center spot. If Wembey moves to that spot, he’ll play alongside recently crowned Rookie of the Year Paolo Panchero, and the pair would immediately form the most promising young forward combination in the entire league. Orlando is a place where Wembaniyama can flourish, and his addition could help make the Magic an Eastern Conference contender.
2. New Orleans Pelicans (.5%): The last two times the Pelicans picked their pick No. 1 overall in the draft. They got Anthony Davis in 2012 and Zion Williamson in 2020. Unfortunately, injury problems plagued those two during their time with the Pelicans, but that may not be the case with Wembaniyama. The Pelicans have a talented front office, and adding Wembaniyama to a team that already has talented players like Williamson and Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum will certainly be intriguing.
1. San Antonio Spurs (14%): Spurs are well-suited for Wembanayama. They are a sustainable organization with a proven track record in nurturing and maximizing young talent. Additionally, Wembanayama will have the opportunity to start his career playing for one of the greatest coaches of all time in Gregg Popovich. And Spurs currently don’t have any sort of established identity or other young cornerstones, so they will immediately start building around Wembaniyama.