A 7-foot-4 basketball sensation poised to replace wine as France’s top export, Victor Wembanyama is the biggest NBA Draft Lottery prize in more than a decade.
Dubbed a ‘generational talent’ by none other than LeBron James, Wembanyama is athletic, skilled, enormous, and still only 19. So when the league determines its first pick on Tuesday night in New York, the winning team will undoubtedly consider itself very lucky.
Whether or not Wembanyama will feel the same way is a different question entirely.
The 14 teams in Tuesday’s lottery aren’t good, generally speaking, and that’s by design. The lottery is intended to improve the league’s bottom feeders, while (slightly) deterring them from tanking their seasons in an effort to land a top talent in the draft, such as Wembanyama.
The following is Dailymail.com’s look at Wembanyama’s 14 potential future teams, how he’d fit, and what these clubs have to offer the NBA’s biggest prospect in a generation.
At 7-foot-4, with the ball-handling and shooting skills of a guard, Victor Wembanyama is considered a generational talent and the biggest NBA Draft Lottery prize in a generation
Wembanyama uses his 7-foot-4 frame to block shots in the paint and on the perimeter
Detroit Pistons (14 percent chance at the first selection)
The Pistons don’t have a head coach after Dwane Casey’s departure, but what’s more concerning is the team’s struggles to build a young core after drafting guards Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, and Jaden Ivey over the last three years.
Another former top pick, Cunningham missed most of the 2022-23 season with a leg injury, and previously disappointed as a shooter, making only 30.9 percent of his 3-point attempts in 76 career games.
Ivey, who was recently named to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team, also struggled to shoot in his first season, making only 41.6 percent of his field-goal attempts, while turning the ball over on a whopping 17.2 percent of his possessions.
Hayes, an American who was raised in France, has battled his similar woes, making only 27.4 percent of his 3-point attempts for his career, while turning the ball over three times a game.
What’s good about Detroit is that the franchise plays in a new building, Little Caesars Arena, practices at a new training facility, and is something of a blank slate. So if the Pistons were to win the lottery, they could then hire a coach that would complement Wembanyama’s versatile game.
Best of all, the Pistons already boast a young center in Jalen Duren – a 6-foot-11, 250-pound bruiser, who can man the middle, thereby allowing the shot-blocking Wembanyama to freelance on defense while avoiding punishing contact in the paint.
It’s an attractive destination for Wembanyama, so long as he can tolerate a winter climate that ranges from ‘frigid’ to ‘Arctic.’
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Cunningham, 2021
Pistons center Jalen Duren (left) would allow Wembanyama to play power forward in Detroit
Cade Cunningham (right) and Jaden Ivey (left) appear to be the Pistons’ future backcourt
Houston Rockets (14 percent)
A large, diverse market, warm (occasionally suffocating) weather, and the absence of any state income taxes make the Rockets another intriguing possibility.
Unlike the Pistons, the Rockets have settled their coaching situation by hiring Ime Udoka, a former journeyman NBA forward who guided the Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first season as a head coach before being suspended and fired for an inappropriate affair with a female staffer.
Udoka has built his reputation on defense, while helping to develop a number of NBA centers, including Boston’s Robert Williams and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
What’s less clear is the Rockets’ roster, which is comprised of young players of varying ability.
Second-year guard Jalen Green was strong in 2022-23, averaging 22.1 points a game
Second-year guard Jalen Green was strong in 2022-23, averaging 22.1 points a game, while having an up-and-down shooting performance.
Turkish center Alperen Sengun also played well this season, averaging 14.8 points and nine rebounds a game, while rookie Tari Eason earned All-NBA Rookie Second Team honors.
Unfortunately for Houston, third-overall pick Jabari Smith was inconsistent as a rookie, making only 30.7 percent of his 3-point attempts, while struggling to look anything like the player who starred as an Auburn freshman in 2021-22.
The best part about potentially playing in Houston would be the chance to work with franchise legend Hakeem Olajuwon, who still owns a Texas ranch and previously helped train Rockets center Yao Ming around 2007. Even if Wembanyama doesn’t stay in Houston long term, the chance to learn from a Hall of Famer like The Dream would be a tremendous opportunity that other teams simply can’t offer.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Yao, 2002
San Antonio Spurs (14 percent)
Gregg Popovich won five NBA titles with his last top-overall draft pick, Tim Duncan
The Spurs can’t offer Wembanyama the tutelage of Olajuwon, but the team does boast Hall of Fame coach Gregg Popovich and franchise legend Tim Duncan is a former San Antonio assistant, who has worked with several team centers in past years.
What’s more, foreign players such as Manu Ginobili and France’s Tony Parker have thrived in San Antonio, which ranks as one of the NBA’s smallest markets.
But even though they’re far removed from their five title-winning teams, the cupboard isn’t completely bare in San Antonio.
Young, two-way players like Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell give the Spurs some reliable complements to Wembanyama, while promising power forward Jeremy Sochan has the athleticism to thrive alongside a dominant big man.
Best of all, the Spurs are projected to have $60million in cap space, and could use Wembanyama to attract some well-established stars if they win the lottery.
If there is a problem with San Antonio, though, it’s the future of Popovich, who is now 74 and could decide to retire within the next few seasons.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Duncan, 1997
Charlotte Hornets (12.5 percent)
Michael Jordan’s unsuccessful run as the Hornets’ majority owner appears to be coming to an end with the revelation that he’s negotiating with minority partner Gabe Plotkin for his controlling stake of the team.
Whether or not that will have a major impact on the club remains to be seen.
Under Jordan, the Hornets have been a reliable bottom feeder, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.
LaMelo Ball, the team’s biggest reason for optimism, missed most of the season with a fractured ankle, but if he’s healthy, the 6-foot-7 playmaker would be an intriguing complement for Wembanyama.
Charlotte may not be the sexiest market for a fledgling millionaire to spend his hefty pay checks, but if given the chance, Wembanyama and Ball could make the Hornets one of the NBA’s cool, young teams.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Larry Johnson, 1991
A LaMelo Ball-Wembanyama duo in Charlotte would create a fearsome alley-oop combo
Portland Trail Blazers (10.5 percent)
The Trail Blazers might offer Wembanyama the best chance to win now, given the presence of future Hall of Famer Damian Lillard, veteran center Jusuf Nurkic, and talented, young guards such as Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe.
But a closer look at the team reveals some potential pitfalls for Wembanyama in Portland.
For one, Lillard has already voiced his concerns about rebuilding around younger players.
‘That’s not what I’m interested in,’ the 32-year-old Lillard told reporters in March. ‘That’s what the frustrating part of it is. Talking about what’s gonna happen next season. And us ”building,” that’s not what I’m here to do, especially at this stage of my career.’
Head coach Chauncey Billups is 60-104 in two seasons and could be on the hotseat if the Blazers fail to show significant signs of improvement.
Nurkic has battled injury problems for years, and if that continues, Wembanyama would have to shift between center and power forward, depending on the Bosnian’s health at any given time.
Of course, the Blazers could build around Wembanyama by trading Lillard and Nurkic for picks in June’s draft or future selections, but there are no guarantees that would help matters for a young player looking to establish himself.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Greg Oden, 2007
Damian Lillard is running out of time to win a title, and may not have the patience to rebuild
Orlando Magic (9 percent)
With German forward Franz Wagner and reigning rookie of the year Paolo Banchero, an American-Italian dual citizen, the Magic would have a promising European frontcourt alongside Wembanyama.
The biggest area of concern with the team is on the perimeter, where Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony have struggled to gel for two seasons.
The good news for Orlando is that with Wembanyama, 24-year-old center Wendell Carter Jr. would become expendable, and could be traded for backcourt depth.
Better yet, the Magic are expected to around $60m in cap space heading into the 2023-24 season, which could be used to add a veteran guard such as James Harden, Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, or Fred VanVleet.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Banchero, 2022
Rookie of the Year Paulo Banchero (left) and Franz Wagner would complement Wembanyama
Myles Turne (left) and Tyrese Haliburton (right) give Indiana a solid foundation
Indiana Pacers (6.8 percent)
Another potential ‘win now’ destination for Wembanyama, the Pacers already have an All-Star point guard in Tyrese Haliburton, an elite defensive center in Myles Turner, and promising (Canadian) players such as Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard.
With Haliburton and Turner, Wembanyama would not be counted on to lead Indiana offensively or defensively, but would instead be allowed to complement those stars as he gets a feel for the NBA game.
The biggest negative for the Hoosier State is the status of head coach Rick Carlisle, a former NBA champion who has struggled in his second stint coaching the Pacers. The 63-year-old is a throwback in many ways, but that’s not always the best fit for a teenage talent, such as Wembanyama.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Jimmy Walker, 1967 (ABA Draft)
Washington Wizards (6.7 percent)
One of the more opaque situations among lottery teams, the middling Wizards are struggling to find a direction.
The team re-signed Bradley Beal last summer to a five-year, $251m extension, and proceeded to win just 35 games for the second consecutive season.
Despite this, Wes Unseld Jr. remains the team’s coach, at least for the time being, but his future and that of center Kristaps Porzingis and power forward Kyle Kuzma are unclear as both can opt out of their current deals this summer.
And even if they return, the Wizards’ core is about to enter its 30s, without any real prior success.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: John Wall, 2010
Washington re-signed Bradley Beal last summer to a five-year, $251million extension
Utah Jazz (4.5 percent)
The Jazz competed for a playoff spot in 2023 despite the pre-season trade that sent Frenchman and former Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But while Wembanyama’s countrymen is no longer in Salt Lake City, Utah’s combination of young talent, future draft picks, and promising head coach Will Hardy might offer him the best future.
Not only do the Jazz hold 14 first-round picks over the next six NBA Drafts, but they also boast 6-foot-11 Lauri Markkanen, a versatile shooter and scorer, as well as Walker Kessler, a 7-foot-1 center, who would allow Wembanyama to stay out of the paint on defense.
Utah is thin in the backcourt, but that’s an issue that can be addressed with the draft picks the team has accumulated by trading Gobert and fellow All-Star Donovan Mitchell.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Never
Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler already give Utah a big frontcourt without Wembanyama
Dallas Mavericks (3 percent)
The Mavs’ pick conveys to the Knicks if it falls anywhere from No. 11 through No. 14, but Dallas still has a slim chance at winning the lottery and taking Wembanyama.
That would go a long way towards injecting some optimism into what became a depressing situation over the last weeks of the season.
Once seemingly destined to reach the playoffs, the Mavs started losing at the end of the year, and ultimately pulled the plug on any postseason hopes by sitting stars like Luka Doncic and the newly acquired Kyrie Irving.
Irving will become a free agent this summer and isn’t guaranteed to return to Dallas, while Doncic became visibly frustrated with the team over the course of the year, leading to speculation that he could bolt as a free agent in 2026 or try and force a trade beforehand.
What’s more, last year’s major off-season acquisition, Christian Wood, already appears to be on the way out, while the rest of the roster can best be described as ‘in flux.’
Finally, head coach Jason Kidd enters the 2023-24 season on the hotseat, and even if he remains, the Hall of Fame point guard doesn’t have a reputation for developing young players.
Yes, Wembanyama can avoid paying state income tax in Dallas, but that’s little consolation when you’re stuck in one of the NBA’s more dysfunctional organizations.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Mark Aguirre, 1981
Things did not go well in Dallas with Luka Doncic (right) and Kyrie Irving (left), a free agent
Chicago Bulls (1.8 percent)
Similarly, the future in Chicago is bleak as well. Zach LaVine is the only player signed for the foreseeable future, but the former All-Star has battled injuries in recent years.
DeMar DeRozan is 34, while Lonzo Ball’s career has been completely derailed by knee problems.
The presence of head coach Billy Donovan bodes well for the Bulls, as does All-Defensive First Team guard Alex Caruso, but their future is as treacherous as any other team on this list.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Derrick Rose, 2008
Bulls head coach Billy Donovan is facing a number of question marks in Chicago
Oklahoma City Thunder (1.7 percent)
OK, the Thunder already have two tall, thin, multi-dimensional bigs in Aleksej Pokusevski and Chet Holmgren, the latter of whom missed his rookie year with a foot issue.
But a logjam at center aside, the Thunder have more young talent than any team in the NBA, and have the ability to add to that core with an unthinkable 20 first-round selections over through 2027.
And the Thunder’s promise isn’t merely theoretical.
The team jumped from 24 wins in 2021-22 to 40 wins this season, thanks to the continued development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, as well as the revelation of rookie Jalen Williams.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Never
Australian playmaker Josh Giddey is a promising piece for the Thunder in Oklahoma City
Former Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes is already the centerpiece of Toronto’s future
Toronto Raptors (1 percent)
Another team in search of its next head coach, the Raptors have as many question marks as any team heading into the 2023-24 campaign.
Yes, they do have former Rookie of the Year in Scottie Barnes, but the futures of veterans such as Pascal Siakam and soon-to-be free agent Fred VanVleet are anything but certain. What’s more, two-way forward OG Anunoby has been mentioned in trade rumors, and no current player is signed beyond the 2024-25 season.
A French-speaking nation like Canada could offer Wembanyama some sense of home, but of course, Toronto is a predominantly English-speaking city, so even that silver lining has a touch of grey.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Andrea Bargnani, 2006
New Orleans Pelicans (0.5 percent)
Worried that the slender Wembanyama will struggle to put on weight in the NBA?
No problem: Send him to America’s culinary capital, which also happens to have an improving, young Pelicans team.
No, Zion Williamson’s conditioning and injury issues aren’t going to fix themselves, but there is talent on the roster, with or without the former top-overall pick.
The future of the Pelicans is clouded by Zion Williamson’s injury and conditioning issues
Obviously leading scorer Brandon Ingram is the first name that jumps out, but the Pelicans also have a bevy of young rotation players, like Trey Murphy III, Herbert Jones, and Dyson Daniels.
Best of all, the Pelicans have improved marginally in each of their two seasons under promising head coach Willie Green.
New Orleans may not have the best chance to get Wembanyama, but the Pelicans could offer him the quickest road to NBA success, given the talent that already exists on the roster.
LAST TIME THEY HAD THE TOP PICK: Williamson, 2019