The Portland Trail Blazers’ draft lottery luck hasn’t been the greatest recently – but all it takes is the bounce of a few ping-pong balls to change the course of a franchise.
Take the San Antonio Spurs, for example, who had the third-best odds to win the 1997 lottery, but jumped to No. 1, selected Tim Duncan, and changed the league for the next decade-plus.
In his most recent NBA mock draft, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has a similarly incredible scenario playing out in Portland. In a hypothetical lottery miracle, O’Connor sees the Trail Blazers earning the No. 1 pick and pairing Damian Lillard with Victor Wembanyama, making Dame’s dream of remaining home and competing for championships a reality.
The Ringer’s latest mock draft has the Trail Blazers landing Victor Wembanyama
Wembanyama is the best NBA draft prospect since LeBron James. The hype for the 19-year-old Frenchman is off the charts, and for good reason:
O’Connor was “mixing up the order to simulate what could happen if we get some surprises on lottery night.” Well, this would certainly constitute a surprise.
Even the casual NBA fan has likely heard of Wembanyama at this point: the 7-foot-3 19-year-old with an 8-foot wingspan who plays like some freaky combination of a skinny Giannis Antetokounmpo and a taller Kevin Durant.
The scouting report on Wemby is well understood. He has the potential to be one of the greatest players in NBA history, and along the way, the most unique.
There’s never been a player who can do this before:
If the lottery were to break this way, the important takeaways would be A, the Trail Blazers future is in good hands, and B, Lillard may finally have a real chance to win a title in the city he doesn’t want to leave.
Wembanyama is still raw, and no matter how athletic he looks playing against the competition in France, will need to adjust to the bigger, stronger, faster, quicker players in the NBA. Still, the tools to be an impact player immediately are there, especially for a team like the Blazers, who are lacking just about everything Wembanyama would provide.
Even if it takes time for him to learn how to score in the NBA, his defense will be invaluable from his opening tip. With his height, length, athleticism, and timing, he could be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate his rookie season and completely transform Portland on that end of the floor.
The idea of Wembanyama playing with guards like Lillard and Anfernee Simons is almost too fun to fantasize about. The pick-and-roll possibilities are seemingly endless given all the ways Wembanyama can score. He can be a lob threat on a roll or a 3-point threat on a pop. Portland could run an inverse pick-and-roll with Wemby as the ball handler and Lillard or Simons as the screener.
That two-man game would be impossible to stop, even without taking into account the guard who isn’t involved in the pick-and-roll who could be spotting up on the other side of the floor for an open catch-and-shoot three or as a secondary creator facing an out-of-rotation defense.
Wemby could act as a shot-creator of his own as well, with his array of pull-ups, step-backs, fadeaways, and an evolving post game. He could take the pressure off of the Blazers’ two primary scorers – at least until he becomes Portland’s primary scorer himself.
It would be fantastic for everyone involved, including Trail Blazers fans. Maybe most importantly, though, landing Wembanyama would be a dream scenario for Lillard.
Here’s hoping those ping-pong balls bring Portland a miracle.