5 winners, losers from 2023 NBA Draft Lottery


The screams from team owner Peter Holt said it all.

San Antonio’s trajectory rose exponentially following its triumph in the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, where it officially was named the holders of the No. 1 overall pick.

It means the Spurs now have the rights to draft Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4 French basketball phenom who has shown he can do it all at the ripe age of 19. 

RELATED: NBA Twitter reacts to Spurs' Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes win

There’s a lot of work to do for Wembanyama to hit his potential, but learning from Gregg Popovich – who has coached former top overall picks in David Robinson and Tim Duncan – is a healthy start.

So, let’s dive into five winners and losers from the lottery:

Winner: San Antonio Spurs

It’s pretty clear San Antonio would start this list, given its days at the bottom of the Western Conference ladder could soon be ending for the long-term.

The Spurs have missed out on the playoffs for four straight seasons after qualifying a record 22 consecutive times. They’ve been in rebuild mode since with Popovich opting to stay at the helm, and his decision to not step away despite yielding little fruit the last few years has now awarded him one of the most unique prospects in NBA history.

It won’t be all rosy and sunny in San Antonio immediately for Wembanyama, however, because its roster construction still needs heavy lifting. There’s no clear-cut guard for the future, but wings Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell have illustrated plenty of potential at the 2 and 3 spots. Jeremy Sochan, a 2022 first-rounder, should pair seamlessly with Wembanyama on the defensive side, but they’ll still need more quality and depth in the coming years to assemble a serious title-contending squad. Nonetheless, the Spurs have their cornerstone – a potential generational star – and that’s the biggest step.

Loser: Detroit Pistons

Yikes. That’s essentially the one-word summary for what transpired for Detroit on Tuesday. Despite finishing the regular season with the worst record at 17-65 and being tied for the best odds at landing the top pick, the Pistons’ engine stuttered – but not to second or third.

Instead, the Pistons plummeted to the No. 5 overall pick. And after not having 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham for most of the 2022-23 campaign, they find themselves in an awkward spot where they can’t necessarily draft an elite game changer and have to rely on internal growth with top free agents likely not penciling the Motor City as a destination to drive to come July.

Winner: Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers came into the lottery with the fifth-best odds at the top pick and climbed to No. 3. Though the prospect of pairing Damian Lillard with Victor Wembanyama is out the window, Portland slots itself as a winner because now it has options.

If they want to trade down from No. 3, the phones will be ringing in the draft room considering one of Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller should be available. That could help land ready-now high-quality talent to make one last push with soon-to-be 33-year-old Lillard leading the way.

Or if Portland wants to give Lillard a shot at competing for a title elsewhere, it’ll surely get calls in that regard and it can use the pick on one of the aforementioned names with Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons in the backcourt. Either way, the Blazers getting the third pick is a positive scenario considering the circumstances.

Loser: Houston Rockets

Houston’s problem is essentially quite similar to Detroit’s. It’s a roster primarily infused with young talent and struggled to find any cohesion with its head coach, Stephen Silas, who was replaced in the form of former Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka. 

The Rockets hoped to launch to the first pick due to being tied for the best odds, but instead saw their chances plunge to earth when their name was called for the No. 4 overall pick, just outside the Wembanyama-Henderson-Miller cohort. 

So, Houston will have questions to ponder. Is there someone it wants with the pick? If so, who? Should they take calls and try to trade back if they’re not enamored by one of the Thompson brothers or a similar lottery prospect? 

In 2022, the Rockets simply grabbed whoever wasn’t picked at No. 1 or No. 2 overall between Paolo Banchero (Orlando), Chet Holmgren (Oklahoma City) or Jabari Smith Jr. (Houston). This year is not so perspicuous. 

Both? Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets got stung, but maybe they didn’t? The previous four teams were a bit simpler to evaluate, but Charlotte is a bit of an intriguing case. 

On one hand, they jumped from the fourth-best odds and got the No. 2 pick. Yay, right? Well, they were just one spot away from Wembanyama, who’s the exact type of star they need to give LaMelo Ball considering their yearly blunders of not finding a capable big man. 

The Hornets need to prove sooner rather than later they can properly build around Ball, who will be a restricted free agent next summer as his rookie deal winds down. He’s eligible for a five-year extension worth just north of $200 million, which is significant money to reject, but between consecutive play-in blowouts to missing the playoffs entirely with injuries becoming a concern, the situation here is worth monitoring.

On the other hand, the Hornets are well-positioned to grab a future potential star forward in Brandon Miller who can ease the burden on Ball. Or they could grab Henderson, who at 6-foot-2 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, could join him to form a backcourt for the future. But that could also create a dilemma if two ball-dominant players don’t mesh well (i.e. De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton in Sacramento or Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in Dallas). 

There’s also the route where Charlotte fields calls for the No. 2 pick as teams vie for Henderson or Miller, so the Hornets have decisions to make. Only time will tell how franchise-altering they were.

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