Wembanyama Watch, Scoot's Shooting and a Laser in Alabama
2023 NBA Draft latest: Twists and turns in the early season
After Victor Wembanyama’s sensational two-game performance against the G League Ignite in early October, many of us expected to see NBA teams looking for creative ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — in other words, tank.
Wembanyama is currently dominating France's Pro A, leading Metropolitans 92 to a first-place 7-1 record and averaging a league-best 22.4 points and 3.1 blocks while ranking second with 8.9 rebounds per contest.
The buzz and expectations surrounding Wembanyama skyrocketed after he averaged 36.5 points and 4.5 blocks and shot 9-for-18 from 3 against the Ignite, and the NBA opted to broadcast his games on the NBA app. Of course, that led many to wonder if NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s anti-tanking statements squared with the league’s decision to promote Wembanyama.
But while the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs were two of the teams that most assumed would be racing to the bottom, the Jazz entered Thanksgiving weekend just a half-game out of first in the Western Conference despite having traded away All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell before the season.
One NBA scout summed it up for me this way:
Will Hardy [Utah’s new head coach] has been great, [and Lauri] Markkanen and [Jordan] Clarkson should be All-Stars. Utah could have two All-Stars and the All-Star coach this year in Salt Lake City. Their rebuilding year has been better than teams who are supposed to be contending.
Utah has been so good this year that it might require an insane amount of luck to win the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery even with the flattened lottery odds where the three worst records each have a 14% chance to select first.
In Marc Stein’s column from Tuesday, he broke down how only one NBA team since 1983-84 started 12-6 and finished with a top-5 pick.
So it’s pretty safe to say Wembanyama won't be taking up residency in Salt Lake City and following in the footsteps of fellow Frenchman Gobert as Utah’s defense anchor.
San Antonio, along with the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, will be in the mix to land the first overall pick, as they’re each expected to win less than 30 games according to the projections at FiveThirtyEight.
The biggest wildcard would be the Los Angeles Lakers winning the lottery. The Lakers are sitting at 5-11 and project to have the sixth-worst record. But with the New Orleans Pelicans holding the rights to swap first-round picks in 2023 as part of the Anthony Davis trade, the Lakers face a potential nightmare: losing the top pick and the rights to draft Wembanyama.
Here are updates on two buzzy prospects near the top of the draft: