In the Victor Wembanyama lottery, these three NBA teams need him the most

victor wembanyama

Every few decades, a player emerges with the potential to change the fortune of a downtrodden franchise. The last time this happened successfully was in 2003, when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the Lottery and were able to take homegrown star and generational talent, LeBron James with the first pick in the NBA Draft.

Tonight, amid the most competitive playoffs in recent memory, another franchise will catch lightning in a bottle when they earn the right to draft Victor Wembanyama. “Wemby,” as the basketball world effectually knows him, is a 19-year-old, 7-foot-2 phenom from France with the skillset of Kevin Durant and the size of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

So who will be so lucky to have the right to call Wembanyama’s name on Draft night? We’ve selected the three teams that need him the most. We decided on these three based on market size, current situation, and history of losing. So let’s get into it:

Charlotte Hornets

charlotte hornets
Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Few NBA teams are as hapless than the Hornets, who have been mired in questionable decision-making throughout the Michael Jordan ownership era.

The Hornets have limited assets outside LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 Draft and their best player. Their second-best player, Miles Bridges, was suspended without pay for 30 games to start next season. Bridges pleaded no contest to a felony domestic violence charge, stemming from his physical confrontation with a former girlfriend in May of last year – a confrontation that took place in front of the couple’s two young children. 

Outside of those two, the roster is made up of players like Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Gordon Hayward. Victor Wembanyama would interject much-needed talent and energize the fanbase, not to mention the team. He and Ball running the fastbreak would be must-watch TV.

The team has failed at almost every level, and helping turn around this franchise would be a major challenge. Between Ball’s health, Bridges’ legal situation and reputation, and Jordan’s potential sale of the team, Wembanyama could be walking into chaos. But if he has the type of rookie season many project him to have, it could be the league’s biggest Cinderella story and a welcome return to relevance for the Hornets.

Detroit Pistons

detroit pistons
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Of the three teams with the highest odds to land Victor Wembanyama, the Pistons could be the most easily transformed into a playoff contender.

Unlike the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, the Pistons have experienced very little winning throughout the last 15 years. Ever since a string of six straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals that included a NBA championship (2004), things have gone mostly downhill, as they’ve made the playoffs just twice since 2009.

They’ve tried and failed to capitalize on big men in the past: Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, to no avail. Landing Wembanyama would immediately change their fortunes and give the Pistons the best young core in the NBA. They already have three diverse and skilled guards to help facilitate and playmaker for the big man in Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, and Cade Cunningham. Having three guards to get Wembanyama the ball and create a pace and space offense would help his transition into the NBA game.

Now that he is fully healthy, Cunningham is due for a breakout year next season, and the two would form a deadly pick-and-roll partnership. Furthermore, Wembanyama would be fortified upfront, playing next to two Lottery picks in James Wiseman (No. 2 overall pick, 2020) and Jalen Duren (No. 13 overall pick, 2022), who would handle the tough, interior physicality, allowing
Wembanyama to take on lighter defensive assignments and float out to the perimeter.

Portland Trail Blazers

portland trail blazers
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

For the Blazers, landing Victor Wembanyama would feel like winning the lottery for three reasons. With the franchise on the verge of potentially trading Damian Lillard, having the No. 1 pick would give them some clear options on Draft night.

First, they could pair him with Lillard, giving their franchise cornerstone the most talented co-star of his career. Wembanyama would be enough, paired with Anfernee Simons and last year’s Lottery pick Shaedon Sharpe, to form an athletic, sharpshooting trio around Lillard. That might be enough to convince Lillard to stay.

Or they could go nuclear and blow it up and trade Lillard anyways. They could pivot towards building around Simons, Sharpe, and Wembanyama while receiving a stellar draft pick package for Lillard, allowing them to have a head start on the rebuilding phase with a bonafide superstar in waiting in Wemby. For a team that hasn’t had many options over the last decade, landing the No. 1 pick would immediately turn the tide of their luck and give them some winnable routes toward future contention.

Lee Escobedo covers the NBA for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @_leeescobedo

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