2023 NBA draft lottery: 'French phenom' Victor Wembanyama to learn his NBA destination

by 24britishtvMay 17, 2023, 2 p.m. 13

On Tuesday night, or the early hours of Wednesday morning for those in the UK, Chicago will play host to the NBA draft lottery, an event where 14 ping-pong balls go into a hopper, and the numbers of the first four balls will be matched to a combination assigned to a team.

That team which wins the No 1 pick will use it to choose Victor Wembanyama.

The 7-foot-4 French phenom is already capturing the basketball world's imagination and attention, and has already piqued the interest of Academy Award winner Michael Douglas.

"I've seen Victor play twice in person and twice on television," Douglas, who has been working near Paris playing the role of Benjamin Franklin, told The Associated Press. "And I went specifically to just see him play. I want to know where he goes."

So does everybody else, especially Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta.

Fertitta told Houston television station KPRC back in February at a Mardi Gras celebration to "pray for Victor" when the Rockets were in the second half of their dreadful season and with the team well on its way to the lottery at that point.
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He didn't say Wembanyama. He didn't have to. Everybody knows what he meant.

The Rockets, alongside San Antonio and Detroit all have the best chance of landing him - 14 per cent apiece.

The odds decrease a bit as one goes down the line of the other lottery hopefuls: Charlotte Hornets (12.5 per cent), Portland Trail Blazers (10.5 per cent), Orlando Magic (9 per cent), Indiana Pacers (6.8 per cent), Washington Wizards (6.7 per cent), Utah Jazz (4.5 per cent), Dallas Mavericks (3 per cent), Chicago Bulls (1.8 per cent), Oklahoma City (1.7 per cent), Toronto Raptors (1 per cent) and New Orleans Pelicans (0.5 per cent).

The NBA rules prohibit teams from discussing draft-eligible players publicly, until they're announced as candidates for the draft. The key word there: publicly.

They've all been talking among themselves about Wembanyama for a couple of years now, trying to find the new ways to describe a skyscraper of a teen who can shoot, pass, dribble and defend.

"I'm alive. I have ears and I can see TV and there's a lottery. Yes, I've thought about it," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said on the day his team's season ended in April. "Duh. Did you think I didn't, that I live in a phone booth?"

A ton of NBA players, even the game's biggest stars, have been chattering away. LeBron James famously called Wembanyama "an alien," and Giannis Antetokounmpo - who said he enjoyed hearing that Wembanyama counts him among his favourite players - insisted that the kid should make immediate impact in the NBA.

"At the end of the day, as we know, NBA players also will want to make sure that when someone gets so much hype, that they let him know what it's about," NBA great and soon-to-be Basketball Hall of Famer Pau Gasol said.

"He's going to be challenged. But great players thrive off of challenge, right? So, I expect him to continue to progress and continue to get better and continue to show why people are so excited about him at this point."

There are some other highly valued lottery picks in this draft who should make teams better as well - among them, Alabama's Brandon Miller, twin brothers Amen and Ausar Thompson of the Overtime Elite program, and Scoot Henderson of the G League Ignite. It was announced Monday that Henderson will be mentored on and off the court by Golden State Warriors' four-time NBA champions Stephen Curry.

"I have been watching Scoot and his family for a while now, and I am beyond impressed with what he has accomplished thus far, and excited to watch him take control of his future and grow," Curry said while announcing the alliance with Henderson - whose team played against Wembanyama's team last autumn in a pair of exhibitions near Las Vegas, part of the build-up toward this draft.

Henderson exudes and believes he's earned the right to be in the No. 1 conversation, stating "I think I can make a big difference".

He'll be at the lottery, but Wembanyama won't; his French team, Boulogne-Levallois, has a game on Tuesday. It'll be a little after 2am Wednesday in Paris when the results are announced.

It'll be the start of a new chapter, as his current one is coming to a joyful end. The winding-down of his French career has been a celebration, and it'll only continue.

But while they are saying "au revoir", the NBA is about to say "bonjour" to the most eagerly anticipated prospect in many years.


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