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Sleeping Beauties: Pistons, Spurs, Rockets Dream of Wembanyama

Top Pick Should Be Game Changer

While the bulk of the NBA news these days surrounds the playoff chase, a handful of teams are readying for their offseasons. This obviously involves a chance at Victory Wembanyama, the most heralded prospect since LeBron James and the man who will go first among NBA picks this spring.

Let’s take a look at some of the squads headed for the lottery and how Wembanyama might fit into their systems. NBA odds at the No. 1 pick will be identical for the bottom three teams – Detroit, Houston and San Antonio – while others have a slightly better shot at the 7’2” (and still growing?) Frenchman. As far as online gambling goes, the number of people making a bet on NBA games will skyrocket once “The Alien” steps onto the floor.

Metropolitans 92's French power forward Victor Wembanyama shoots the ball during the French Elite basketball - Jeff Pachoud/AFP
Metropolitans 92's French power forward Victor Wembanyama shoots the ball during the French Elite basketball - Jeff Pachoud/AFP

Detroit Pistons – 14% Chance of No. 1 Pick

The Pistons will probably have two of the top four or five vote-getters in the Rookie of the Year tally behind Paolo Banchero,Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duran have proven to be solid players with starry futures.

Add in a healthy Cade Cunningham and a reborn James Wiseman and this is a very talented, young core. Wembanyama would only add to that special mix. The concern is that Detroit has a lot of size already in Wiseman, Duran and Marvin Bagley. If they can figure out a way to incorporate Wembanyama with one of them at a time it’ll be fine. He has said he doesn’t want to play center, so finding a way to spread him out is imperative.

The Pistons are wrapping up a fourth straight losing season and could wind up with their second No. 1 pick in the last three years. Cunningham was the top selection in 2021. He’s missed most of the season with a leg injury, but having them both in the lineup to begin 2023-24 will create some much-needed buzz in Motown.

Houston Rockets – 14% Chance of No. 1 Pick

The problem here is that the Rockets have high-volume guards in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. who will take up a lot of the air in the room, and many of the shots. They’re both blossoming into stars and won’t be eager to take a back seat to a newcomer with a wild skill set, even if there’s a chance it might work well.

Then there’s Alperen Sengun, who is a solid passer as a big man, almost serving as the point person in the offensive attack. Can that work with Wembanyama? It seems awkward, at best, and there should be some better landing spots than Houston.

San Antonio Spurs – 14% Chance of No. 1 Pick

The consensus is that this would be the best home for Wembanyama. Gregg Popovich and his staff develop talent as well as anyone, and they’ve always done well with big men. Additionally, there would be nothing in the way of his development, as the Spurs have a need for size and don’t possess a dynamic talent that would take anything from Wembanyama.

He’s not exactly David Robinson and he’s quite different from Tim Duncan, but there’s a track record here for turning 7-footers into champions. Also, the thought of Wembanyama and Jeremy Sochan giving other frontlines fits and talking smack is a pretty fun one.

Charlotte Hornets – 12.5% Chance of No. 1 Pick

Of all the possible pairings out there, a potential Wembanyama-LaMelo Ball one is perhaps the most tantalizing. A dynamic playmaking point guard who can pass with the best of them finding perhaps the most talented player on the planet in all sorts of spots on the court.

The Hornets have a rookie big man in Mark Williams who has established himself since the team traded away Mason Plumlee. He’s more of a banger defensive type and not the kind of center who will take much away from Wembanyama. If the Hornets can utilize the phenom at the 4 alongside Ball, Williams and others it could be a fun scene in Charlotte.

NBA predictions pieces like the Hornets before this season turned into an injury-marred disappointment. They’ll be back on board if Wembanyama is in the fold.

A big question is how committed Michael Jordan and his front office will be in figuring this all out. He’s steered clear of some big-money prizes in the past and has hinted he may not be all in.

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