Winners and losers of the NBA draft lottery

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The San Antonio Spurs will pick first in the 2023 NBA draft after winning the draft lottery on Tuesday night.

It is a near guarantee that they will select Victor Wembanyama, the towering French phenom who brings a near-unprecedented combination of size and skill to the NBA. The 19-year-old has been labeled one of the best prospects in years — perhaps the best since LeBron James was selected right out of high school 20 years ago.

Tuesday night’s events will shape the course of the NBA for years. Even though the Spurs are the clear winners of the draft lottery, plenty of other teams benefited from the ping-pong balls … and others are left licking their wounds.

Here’s the winners and losers of the NBA draft lottery:

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San Antonio Spurs

This is their third draft lottery win. The first two worked out pretty well.

San Antonio also picked first in 1997, selecting Tim Duncan, and in 1987, when it selected David Robinson. Both players are in the Basketball Hall of Fame and Duncan finished his career with five NBA championships. The Spurs never missed the playoffs during Duncan’s 19 seasons, but their 22-year playoff streak came to an end in 2020 and they have failed to reach the postseason since.

Now, the Spurs, who went 22-60 this past season, presumably have another big-man building block in Wembanyama. Managing partner Peter J. Holt did not hide his excitement when it was revealed the Spurs would pick first.

Gregg Popovich … and whoever coaches the Spurs next

Popovich is the NBA’s all-time winningest coach, but he has not had a ton of talent to work with in the years since Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard left the team. Wembanyama could be the key to Popovich getting the Spurs back on track. But ‘Wemby’ also figures to help the next coach of the Spurs. Popovich is 74 years old, and while he’s given little indication about his future, we know he will not coach forever. Wembanyama could improve the Spurs in the immediate and make San Antonio an attractive destination for prospective coaches whenever Popovich is ready to hand the reins over.

Victor Wembanyama

Regardless of who got the first pick, Wembanyama was going to be a winner. He’s going to be the first pick in the NBA draft. That’s awesome. Landing with the Spurs is a nice bonus. This isn’t the same franchise that churned out 18 straight 50-win seasons, but the Spurs are still generally more stable with a more recent track record of success than teams like Detroit and Charlotte and they have a long history of embracing and succeeding with international players.

Charlotte Hornets

Though ending up No. 2 to the Spurs stings — Charlotte last picked this high in 2012, when it selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist … right behind top pick Anthony Davis — the Hornets should still be getting a real solid player. For the team with the longest playoff drought in the NBA, that’s a good thing.

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland had the fifth-best odds but jumped up to No. 3. The Blazers can either use that pick to add a talented young player … or perhaps package it to bring in another star alongside Damian Lillard. The slight jump gives Portland even more possibilities.

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas pretty blatantly tanked the end of its season to try and preserve its first-round pick; if the Mavericks’ selection fell outside the top 10, it would become property of the New York Knicks via 2019’s Kristaps Porzingis trade. The NBA fined the Mavs $750,000 for their actions but the team got what it wanted in the end, keeping their first-round pick by sticking at No. 10.


Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets

Detroit was the worst team in the NBA at 17-65 and Houston matched the Spurs with a 22-60 record. The teams had the same 14% chance of selecting first as San Antonio did. Wembanyama would have been a welcome addition with both squads fielding extremely young cores. Instead, the Pistons tumbled to fifth while Houston fell to fourth. That stings.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls only had a 1.8% chance at the top pick, but they end the night without a pick at all. Chicago’s pick was top-four protected, but the Bulls remained at 11 and instead the Orlando Magic will pick in their place thanks to the 2021 trade for Nikola Vucevic. The Bulls went 40-42 this season and lost the play-in for the No. 8 seed to the Heat. For a team stuck in no-man’s land, this is a worst-case scenario.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY