“It’s a strange strategy.” NBA draft candidate Victor Wembanyama talks about tanking

The entire premise of this running column revolves around the inevitability of refueling. While it wasn’t quite as prominent this season as many expected, it certainly still exists. It is possible, if not likely, that the team landing Victor Wembanyama is one of the teams that have taken or will take decisive action before the trade deadline to weaken their 2022-23 roster in order to increase their chances on lottery night

How does Wembanyama himself feel about this? Well… apparently not great. “Refuel? It’s a strange strategy,” Wembanyama said in French in a recent interview with French newspaper Le Parisien. “I find it unreasonable and try not to think about it.” Luckily for Wembanyama, he probably won’t have to think much about it once he arrives in the NBA. Unfortunately for him, that might not be the best thing for him. Teams that land prospects like Wembanyama have had terrible performances in the following drafts in the past.

Let’s turn the clocks back two decades. If you want to know why the Cleveland Cavaliers failed in their first attempt to build a champion around LeBron James, the draft is the easiest answer. Usually when a team picks No. 1 they’re pretty bad for a few more years and can back that top pick with more young talent from the next few draft pools. But LeBron was so good that Cleveland finished 10th overall after his rookie season. You missed Luke Jackson. That was the last lottery tip of the first James era. They only made three more first-round picks before departing altogether in 2010, largely because they dedicated their draft capital to the veteran trade.

The New Orleans Pelicans took this approach to a new level with Anthony Davis. Amazingly, the Pelicans didn’t retain a single first-round pick in his entire tenure at New Orleans until the end of this player’s rookie season. They swapped picks either before or during the season.

The Dallas Mavericks, meanwhile, gave up the only chance they had of winning the lottery during the Luka Doncic era in the trade that put Doncic in first place. Dallas missed the 2019 playoffs. They jumped in in the 2019-20 season and haven’t looked back since. But Doncic’s roster is extremely understaffed by championship standards, largely because the Mavericks were unable to draft another star for him.

All of this is to say that Wembanyama probably won’t have to worry about his own team once he gets into the NBA. He will be too good to let her. But he’d better hope that the team in question already has some young talent, because they won’t add much of that through the draft once he’s filled the stat sheets.

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Wemby becomes All-Star MVP

Mets 92 was free for the LNB Pro A’s All-Star break this week, but Victor Wembanyama? Well, there’s no rest when you’re the focus of the production. And that’s exactly what he was in Saturday’s league All-Star game. He declined to compete in the dunk contest, but he was a competitor in the 3-point contest – from which he was knocked out in the first round – and excelled at the game itself, which came as no surprise to absolutely anyone. His final run of 27 points and 12 boards helped him earn MVP honors for the game. Oh, and on top of that, he helped his All-Star France team defeat the All-Star World team, which was his only stated goal while playing the game.

Wembanyama breaking new ground and breaking new records is an integral part of his routine on the international scene at this point. In keeping with that tradition, he did it again in the All-Star Game by becoming the youngest All-Star Game MVP winner in Pro A history.

watching Wemby

Mets 92 and Wembanyama will be back in action on Friday when play resumes after the All-Star hiatus with a home game against Wembanyama’s former team ASVEL. Wembanyama signed a three-year deal with the club in 2021 but opted for the final two years to join Mets 92 earlier this year, setting a beautiful story to follow as the league enters the second half of the season.

  • Jan. 6: Mets 92 vs. ASVEL (2:30 p.m. ET)
  • Jan. 13: Mets 92 in Dijon (2:30 p.m. ET)
  • January 20: Fos-sur-Mer (2:00 p.m. ET)

The Jan. 6 meeting against Mets 92 features a showdown against former Tennessee star Yves Pons, who won the All-Star Game Dunk contest at the LNB Pro A last week. Sharpshooter Nando De Colo, a 3-point competitor alongside Wembanyama, will also be part of the opposing ASVEL team against Mets 92.

race down

Each week we will rank the seven teams most likely to win the coveted #1 spot on lottery night. This ranking takes into account the current record, recent performances, upcoming schedule, and injuries to subjectively rank the NBA’s worst teams.

7. Chicago Bulls: Coming by seven wasn’t an easy task this week. The Bulls, Lakers and Wizards are all .500 or better in their last 10. The Timberwolves are in contention, but an impressive win over the Nuggets on Monday gave them some breathing room. Ultimately, the Bulls and Lakers had the worst records of the four, but the Lakers earned the tiebreaker partly because they have James and partly because, as we’ll soon report, the Bulls suffered their worst loss this week.

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6. Thunder from Oklahoma City: We haven’t had much opportunity to cover the NBA’s new Jerry West Clutch Player of the Year award, but there’s an interesting battle brewing between the No. 7 and No. 6 teams at Wemby Watch. The top two in the clutch standings this season are DeMar DeRozan (with 104 points) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (92). DeRozan obviously has the raw goal advantage. Gilgeous-Alexander has the only game-winning buzzer beater of the year under him. Luka Doncic (83 points) will give voters a playoff option if they want one, but there’s a good chance the first West prize will go to a lottery player.

5. Orlando Magic: Last week we wrote about Orlando’s surprise rise. Of course, they followed with back-to-back losses to the Lakers, Wizards, and Pistons. So… we may have been a bit hasty. The future remains rosy. The present will remain dark for a little longer.

4.San Antonio Spurs: Spurs seemed to have settled into a state of garden variety tanking after their unimaginably miserable November. San Antonio followed a minus 14.7 net rating in November with a more respectable minus 6.2 in December. As long as capable veterans like Jakob Poeltl and Doug McDermott are playing for San Antonio, they’re unlikely to return to their November lows anytime soon.

3. Houston Missiles: The chart suggests that the Rockets have improved a lot over the course of the season. Having started 1-9, they have since gone up to a respectable 9-18. Just don’t tell that to Eric Gordon, who said Houston isn’t getting better right now. “The same year-round,” Gordon explained. “We have a little margin for error. … It’s many things. It’s the mindset. You have to play for each other. Get the right thing from your teammates. If you did that, it would be more fun, better chance of winning.” The truth is somewhere in between. Houston’s young players still make young player mistakes. They also show the greatness Houston expects of them one day. That’s what young players do It doesn’t make life any easier for the veterans assigned to lead them.

2. Charlotte Hornet: Are the Hornets planning to bring Miles Bridges back? It’s not entirely clear. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in December that Bridges and the team were “gaining momentum in talks over a new deal.” The Hornets on Tuesday denied that negotiations have taken place. It probably wouldn’t affect Charlotte this season either way as Bridges faces a lengthy suspension after not appealing an injury to a child’s parents, but it’s a story to watch as it is one One of the NBA’s most notorious cases has been of domestic violence for quite some time. What Charlotte decides will have ramifications across the league for years to come.

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1. Detroit piston: The Pistons are quickly becoming a barometer of what’s wrong with other teams. The Magic lost to Detroit? Okay, maybe they’re not rising as fast as we thought. The Timberwolves lost to Detroit at home? Man…it must be really sideways over there. The bottom of the NBA is relatively strong compared to a typical season. All 30 teams are on track to win at least 20 games. This is about as low as a team will sink this season. The Pistons don’t automatically lose every night, but when they win, it feels remarkable to their opponent.

defeat of the week

It feels a little unfair to dedicate this slot just to the Chicago Bulls. Their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday was due to an intentionally missed free throw that Donovan Mitchell eventually converted into the two points Cleveland needed to level the game.

The Knicks lost to the Mavericks six days earlier in almost identical circumstances, and before you say “Mitchell scored 71 points,” I want to point out that Doncic hit a historic triple-double with 60 points and 20 rebounds. Both the Knicks and Bulls lost games on historic individual performances that included an intentionally missed free throw late in the game.

Here’s the difference: The Knicks never led by more than 12 points. Chicago led by 21. They were up at 19 at the half. Cleveland didn’t have Darius Garland. New York’s collapse in the final seconds might have been rarer, but the Bulls had almost a game to put this thing away. They couldn’t, and that earns them the loss of week status.

games of the weak

Thunder at Magic, January 4th: we covered this at the time, but the last time these two teams went head-to-head, Oklahoma City held Orlando to just four points in the final 7:26 of the game.

jazz on Rockets, January 5th: We draw attention to jazz. After starting the season 12-6, they have since fallen to 7-14. That’s roughly a pace of 27 wins over an entire season. The Jazz lost too much time to really get to the bottom of the standings, but they can still sneak to the edge of Wemby Watch.

Pistons at Spurs, January 6th: Keldon Johnson has averaged 24 points per game in his last 12 appearances. That’s the best reason I can give you to check out this game unless you’re really into Jeremy Sochan’s one-handed free throws.

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