2023 NBA Draft Lottery: Winners and losers

Published May 18, 2023, 1:00 PMPolo Bustamante
Polo Bustamante

The order of NBA Draft picks is set. Who are the winners and losers of this year’s sweepstakes?

Once again, the San Antonio Spurs have won the NBA Draft Lottery. They won it twice before, selecting the no-brainer franchise big man with their previous top picks. This time around, who knows what the Spurs will do? They could trade down for multiple picks. Or use the pick to acquire an established star. Or…

Winner: San Antonio Spurs

…who are we kidding? The Spurs are drafting their big man of the future, Victor Wembenyama. This is a near certainty. 

Wembenyama is a freak of nature. He’s basically a created player in NBA 2K made with Rudy Gobert’s body, Kevin Durant’s skills, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s athleticism. The fans in San Antonio would riot if the Spurs did anything else with their number one pick.

This was also a win for the Spurs because they’re known for developing a championship team around generational big men. This might sound blasphemous given David Robinson and Tim Duncan’s accomplishments, but Wembenyama might end up as San Antonio’s best top pick a few years down the line.

Loser: Detroit Pistons

The Pistons willingly lost 65 games last season. Their prize for that abomination of a season was a 14 percent chance to get the top pick. Given that they were the worst team in the league, most people focused on their chances to get the number one pick. But one thing lost in all that was their odds at the number five pick, which was pegged at 47.9 percent.

Well, this time around, 47.9 proved greater than 14. The Pistons fell all the way to the fifth pick, missing the chance to not only draft Wembenyama but probably a slew of other top prospects as well. 

That means Piston fans are in for another season where their team gets whooped by the rest of the league. They’re once again left crunching the numbers at the end of the season hoping to get another high pick in next year’s Draft Lottery.

Winner: Victor Wembenyama

Wembenyama is landing into the best possible scenario for a young player. The Spurs are unlike other teams picking at the top of the draft. They’re a well-run organization known for developing young talent. They have a championship-caliber coach, a history of fostering international players, and rabidly loyal fans.

If Wembenyama landed in another team, he probably would have been stuck in a long rebuild, hoping to get some sort of guidance in his young career. The Spurs won’t take long to build a competitive team around him. He’s the clear cornerstone of the franchise and they’ll work to surround him with complementary pieces. He’ll be around established professionals who will take him under their wing. In San Antonio, Wembenyama will be able to truly spread his 8-foot wingspan.

Loser: Casual NBA Fans

That being said, NBA fans missed out on the chance to watch Wembenyama be paired with less boring (aka Spurs-like) players in his first year in the league.

Imagine him running the break with someone like LaMelo Ball lobbing it up high where only a freak like Wemby can grab it. Or how about Wembenyama setting a screen to free up a Damian Lillard 35-foot bomb. Think about how fun a high-low play between Alperen Sengun and Wembenyama would have been.

The Spurs are great for Wembenyama’s development, but not his highlight reel.

Winner: LaMelo Ball

The Charlotte Hornets missed out on Wembenyama, but they still have a ton of options with the second pick. That includes two players that pair well with Ball.

They can take Brandon Miller, a solid forward with a deep offensive arsenal. At 6’9”, Miller will bring size and skill to the team at either forward position. Or they can take Scoot Henderson. He’s not as big or as polished as Miller, but he’s brash and explosive. Henderson is built like a linebacker and can get to the rim as he pleases.

Both these players fit well next to Ball. Either one of them gives the dynamic point guard a new toy to play with for next season.

Loser: Damian Lillard

Poor Lillard.

It felt like the team had no other concrete plans besides hoping the balls bounce in their favor to be able to draft Wembenyama. Without Wembenyama, the team is back to being stuck in two eras. They want to build a team that can help Lillard win a championship. But all around him are young prospects not ready to win now.

Lillard needed someone like Wembenyama on the team. Instead, the Blazers have the third pick and no clue on how to get the help their franchise player desperately needs.