It’s First-Overall for Wembanyama or Bust for Pistons in NBA Draft Lottery
It's a bizarre feeling to know that the Detroit Pistons had the worst record in the NBA last year by five games and yet there's nothing but dread concerning the NBA Draft Lottery tonight.
The Pistons not only have to defy its own recent history and luck, but also the history and luck in the lottery altogether. Since the league adopted new odds in 2019 to the lottery to combat tanking, the team coming off the previous season with the worst record has yet to draw the first overall selection. The Pistons, just like the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, have a 14% chance of landing the first overall selection.
As is usually the case, the top prize in the NBA Draft Lottery this year is a talent that is head and shoulders above the rest, pun intended. The 7'5" Victor Wembanyama is precisely what the Pistons need in this junction of its rebuild. With the athleticism to stick at the 4 and be a weapon on both ends of the court, Wembanyama pairs excellently with the perimeter talents Detroit invested in with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.
Of course, Detroit sports fans know all too well not to count chickens before the eggs hatch. Detroit doesn't have the first overall pick yet, and if it doesn't get it, everything comes crashing back to reality.
Wembanyama isn't just the best player in the draft class by a healthy margin, he's the best big man in the class by a wide margin. Pick your outlet, they all point to a serious problem for Detroit if they lose out on the first overall pick because the next 3-4 players in the class are not at a premiere position of need. Now, just like any team picking this early in the draft, the Pistons need a lot of help everywhere. But if the Pistons had a choice between Wembanyama and considered the likes of Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller, or Amen Thompson as equal talents and made the pick on need alone, the Pistons would still take Wembanyama.
Only further exacerbating the situation, the rest of Detroit's offseason is heavily contingent on landing the first pick and Wembanyama. Take the big man and suddenly the coaching vacancy becomes quite alluring. Take Wembanyama and quality free agents will be interested in coming to Detroit to help these young stars right the ship.
Miss out and be forced to settle for a player that may not be a Day 1 starter and will only fill a role around Cunningham and Ivey and things in Detroit look just as bleak as ever. We're talking about a talent that could very well add a $500 million value to the franchise that is lucky enough to draft him. That's the kind of thing that helps a city, not just its basketball team.
It's so close Detroit can taste it. But looming over that 14% chance to land the first overall pick is a daunting 47.9% chance to land the fifth overall pick. If even second place is bad, nothing would be quite as bad as falling to fifth.
The Pistons just need a chance to gasp for air to have a chance to save themselves. There's only one opening to peek over the surface, and it's tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN.