Despite all the excitement of the NBA season, Victor Wembanyama is still at the forefront of the crowd. The first 20 games of the season got people talking about this prospect even more, because teams that were predicted to go bad actually do GOOD.
The San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder were three teams that the bookmakers predicted would be among the worst, but chances are the Spurs are 6-12, Jazz 12-7 and Thunder 7-10 to take the season to start.
Getting the chance to draft Wembanyama is a franchise changer. This skilled Frenchman is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. He’s 6’8″, which makes perfect sense when you figure out that his dad was a six-foot-tall long jumper and his mom is a six-foot-tall former basketball player and coach.
His wingspan measures 8ft and is a scary shot blocker and edge protector by nature and good luck stopping him as a perimeter shooter. Many are touting him as the most exciting NBA Draft prospect since LeBron James.
Speaking of which, LeBron James himself called Wembanyama a “generational talent” earlier this year. “Everyone has been a unicorn for the past few years, but he looks more like an alien,” James said.
Even if a bottom three team doesn’t get Wembanyama, their consolation prize is hardly any consolation. The predicted number two, Sterling ‘Scoot’ Henderson, has scored at least 25 points in the G League four times this season and even has 16 assists in the highest season against the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Last month, in an exhibition game against Metropolitans 92 and Wembanyama, Henderson recorded 28 points (11-21 FG, 2-3 3pt), five rebounds and nine assists. If Wembanyama weren’t in the race, Henderson would definitely be the man everyone is looking for.
Let’s take a look at some of the current front-runners taking home the coveted award (note, these are in no particular order):
The Pistons are 4-15 to start the season and in a massive blow their rising star Cade Cunningham has been ruled out indefinitely and until Tuesday’s 110-108 win against the Denver Nuggets they couldn’t have shot a W without him.
Detroit has the second worst defensive rating in the league, fourth worst on offense and is the worst performing team when it comes to shooting.
Their defensive rebound percentage (72.8) is actually better than most of their other stats. As a reference point, the average Defensive Rebounding Percentage in the NBA is 73%. Their offensive percentage of 25 is just below the league average of 27 percent.
Head coach Dwane Casey is a fiend for experimenting with two greats in his lineup, so Wembanyama could be an ideal match. He would be one of the few Pistons players under the age of 30 other than Saddiq Bey who could stretch the floor and shoot above the league average.
Without Cunningham, it’s hard to see Detroit get away from the bottom three, but it’s the NBA, so crazier things have happened.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (VIA LOS ANGELES LAKERS)
The Pelicans will control the Lakers’ next three first-round draft picks from the Anthony Davis trade that helped them win the 2020 championship and what a year to have that advantage.
The 2019 Lakers purchase included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart — three unprotected picks in the first round.
The Lakers have only managed to rack up five wins this season, but after losing their first five games in a row, they seem to be on the rise thanks to a healthy Davis. Who appears to be a man on a mission. In his last four games, he averaged 35.5 points, 18.25 rebounds and four assists.
With Wembanyama in the middle and Zion Williamson in his usual power forward position, it could be a very unique combination, but one that could prove super successful.
By the end of the season, the Rockets and Detroit could be battling for last place. And things can get ugly. Houston is not a team that will tank on purpose as they are poised to rebuild the mode after trading Russell Westbrook and James Harden in 2020. Lucky for them, this comes at a time when they could grab a player who could change everything.
The Rockets are ranked 26th in the league on offensive rating (108.4), 28th on defensive rating (115.8), 27th for assists per game (21.5) and have the fourth worst attrition in the NBA.
They are trying to do all the right things and have a young core that they center around number two 2021 Draft pick Jalen Green and number three 2022 Draft pick Jabari Smith Jr. need a lot more talent and continued internal development before they can even compete in the west.
Smith is slow to get going offensively, averaging only 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game. As a shooting guard, Green put up decent numbers, averaging 21 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
Without meaning it, Charlotte could be well on her way to the Draft lottery. They are currently 4-14 and are ranked 30th in the league for their offensive rating (107.1) and their net rating is 27th in the league at -5.6.
On the plus side, they rank 12th in the league for assists with 25.3 per game and 18th in the league based on their defensive rating (112.7). Also players like Dennis Smith Jr and Nick Richards were not even in the rotation last season and now play an important role for the Hornets.
In the way of express fueling (which Charlotte may not need if they continue as they do), owner Michael Jordan is reportedly not a fan. According to an anonymous Eastern Conference general manager, he doesn’t see MJ changing his mind:
“The hurdle is getting the owner to agree,” the GM told Heavy Sports. “It’s Michael Jordan. He’s never approved anything like that and it’s not clear he would, even if it gets bad this year, even if it puts them in a good spot in the draft ahead of Victor (Wembanyama). He has been pretty strong against tanking, but it’s hard to see any other way forward for them now.
Even if they don’t get the MJ clearance to officially “tank up,” we could soon see a frantic combination of LaMelo Ball (if he ever gets that pesky ankle right, of course) and Wembanyama.
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