The last two times the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery back in 1987 and 1997, they drafted centers on both occasions who went on to lead their franchise to multiple NBA championships.
Now, following a four-year postseason drought, San Antonio is once again picking first in the NBA Draft after winning this year’s lottery. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, it is more than probable that they are going to select the 7’4 Victory Wembanyama, who has been hyped in some circles as the best draft prospect in the history of the NBA.
The Spurs, along with the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons, had the highest chance of claiming the first overall pick at 14% since these three teams finished with the three worst records in the league this season.
The Rockets and Pistons, however, were not as fortunate and slid to the fourth and fifth overall picks, respectively. Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets, owners of the fourth best odds, moved up to second followed by the Portland Trail Blazers who had the fifth most lottery balls.
Though the improvement in Charlotte and Portland’s draft spot is a welcome development, Wembanyama is the undisputed prize of this year’s draft and it is almost certain that every team besides San Antonio is walking away from the lottery disappointed.
The Frenchman Wembanyama, with his other-worldly combination of height, mobility, and skill, has all the tools to become the best player in the NBA one day. The Spurs are also the ideal landing spot for him as he will now get the chance to be mentored by legendary head coach Gregg Popovich, who steered this team to each of its five NBA titles won between 1999 and 2014.
Aside from his championship pedigree, Popovich knows a thing or two as well with regards to developing superstar big men. The 74-year-old mentor took over the helm at San Antonio in the season prior to Tim Duncan’s arrival as a rookie in 1997 and he was largely influential in the 6’11 forward’s development into one of the best to ever play the game.
Popovich also handled the Spurs’ other top-pick-turned-All-Star-center David Robinson over the latter half of his career.
Playing under a coach with this wealth of experience in handling great big men should only help Wembanyama reach his full potential in the NBA. San Antonio is no stranger to French basketball players either as 2007 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Tony Parker and national team mainstay Boris Diaw both won NBA championships while playing for the Spurs.
San Antonio already has a solid supporting cast in place to play alongside Wembanyama too, highlighted by up-and-coming wingmen Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, and Jeremy Sochan.
The stage is now set for the next great partnership in NBA history and it will be captivating to see how the next decade unfolds for Wembanyama. He joins a San Antonio franchise that has become synonymous with winning under the guidance of Popovich and it is clear that he wants nothing less than to win a championship of his own sooner rather than later.