LeBron James. Blake Griffin. Zion Williamson. Victor Wembanyama. These four players brought out the worst in the NBA regarding tanking. In the last 20 years, these four were the most sought-after No. 1 NBA Draft pick players for rebuilding teams looking to land Draft Lottery luck and reverse their fortunes.
Wembanyama, or “Wemby” as he’s known colloquially in NBA circles, is the hottest first-round pick since LeBron in the 2003 NBA Draft. Like James, Wemby is a unique physical specimen. He lacks LeBron’s grown-man strength, but at 7-foot-4 with a reported 8-foot wingspan and a near 10-foot standing reach, he has a build and skill set never before seen in the NBA.
With the NBA’s middle class slowly eroding, fewer teams are in the dreaded purgatory ring of the NBA. With the addition of the Play-In Tournament, more teams are vying to remain competitive in hopes of breaking into the playoffs via the 9th and 10th seeds. With the level of competition rising, there are thankfully fewer teams at the bottom of the standings. This season even the three worst teams in the NBA have solid young cores: the Houston Rockets (13-49), Detroit Pistons (15-48), and the San Antonio Spurs (15-47) entering the Thursday games. The next worst team, the Charlotte Hornets, is five games better than the Spurs and Pistons at 20-44.
As it has been since 2019, the top three worst teams in the league are given equal odds for the top pick at 14 percent each. While it’s not guaranteed one of the three worst teams lands the No. 1 pick, it is the most likely scenario odds-wise. Given their current roster construction and front-office culture, we’ve analyzed how Wemby would fit with all three teams.
No NBA Draft prospect has built up this much anticipation in the age of social media and the 24/7 news cycle. Wemby will surely have an immediate and profound impact on the team lucky enough to land him.
Let’s imagine what that impact could be for the three teams in first place for his services. Here’s how the three NBA Draft Lottery-bound leaders would fare with Wemby, ranked.
Tilman Fertitta is a candidate for the worst owner, as under his ownership, the Rockets have sunk into dysfunction and rot. Since they entered a rebuild after trading James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in January 2021, the Rockets have failed to build the kind of culture on and off the court that facilitates development.
Rockets coach Stephen Silas seems grossly outmatched for the task at hand. Multiple post-game press conferences have revealed how razor-thin of a grasp he has on the team. He has made questionable decisions around rotations and minutes, benching their best player, Alperen Sengün, in pivotal fourth quarters. On the court, last season’s No. 2 overall pick, Jalen Green, has been one of the most inefficient players in the NBA. Between him and Kevin Porter Jr., the Rockets have a
chucking, me-first guard on the court at all times.
Adding Wembley would inject much-needed stability, character, and high basketball IQ onto a team that desperately needs all three. He would pair with this season’s sNo. 2 overall pick, Jabari Smith Jr., and Sengün to form a massive, defensively dominant front line. Wemby’s skill set would
cement him as the team’s top scoring option, allowing the ancillary players, Sengün, Porter, Green, and KJ Martin, to stop fighting for pecking order and ease into established roles.
The Rockets need a nexus point on both sides of the court to stabilize the chaos. Of the three
bottom-tier teams, the Rockets would be the most challenging to adapt to. Houston has developed a losing culture, landing at the bottom of the standings three seasons in a row, despite having the No. 2 overall pick in back-to-back NBA Drafts. Wemby would surely like to avoid the toxicity of Houston, which would only add to his learning curve of joining a new team, league, and country.