The 2023 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 22, and will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The league’s draft lottery was held on May 16. That’s where the teams that didn’t make the postseason get together to figure out which team will get the first pick and how the teams will draft in order. There was an interesting winner this year.
– While San Antonio was the bigger winner of the draft lottery, another NBA team won too.
– This summer has the potential to see several big-name trades.
Spurs Are the Big NBA Draft Winner
On Tuesday night, the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery and will undoubtedly take Victor Wembanyama, a French superstar prospect, with the first overall choice.
Wembanyama was referred to as “the most highly anticipated player to enter the NBA…ever. He’s quite possibly the greatest prospect in the history of team sports, which is how one NBA expert put it.
Wembenyana is a unique talent. He’s 7-feet-2-inches tall but plays the game more like a guard. He can shoot three-pointers with the best of them and he’s difficult to defend, of course, because of his height. He has spent the past two seasons playing in France’s top league, the LNB Pro A. Wembenyana finished this season averaging 21.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
With the draft lottery win, it is expected that the Spurs will select the French star with the No. 1 pick.
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The Hornets Nest
With the Spurs taking Wembenyana, the next few prospects expected to go in the top-5 include Alabama forward Brandon Miller, PG Scoot Henderson, and twins Amen and Ausar Thompson. You could throw Houston’s Jarace Walker in the mix too.
By virtue of the lottery, Charlotte holds the No. 2 pick. It is expected that they will take MIller, since they already have solid point guards. Miller is a 6-9 wing who shoots the three well, rebounds, and is an effective pick-and-roll player.
The Most Interesting Winner
The really interesting NBA draft lottery winner is Portland. The Trail Blazers now hold the third overall pick and that puts them in a great spot.
The Blazers were one of the top four teams in the lottery and had aspirations of taking Wembanyama. After yet another late-season tank job in 2023, Portland still came out ahead as a result of the lottery. Here’s why.
Portland is a unique mix of veteran talent and youth. Perennial All-Star Damian Lillard is the best of the bunch. He had the best scoring season of his career averaging 32.2 points per game. Lillard was shut down after 58 games when it was learned the Blazers were unlikely to make the postseason.
Jusuf Nurkic is another Portland veteran past his prime and Jerami Grant (20.5 ppg) was a solid pickup during the season. The three vets plus Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons (21.1 ppg) make up a nice nucleus to work with. Unfortunately, they couldn’t even make the play-in round this season.
That leaves Portland in a rather precarious position.
To Trade or Not to Trade
There is no question that Lillard wants a shot at a ring. The 11-year NBA veteran is not getting any younger. He’ll turn 33 in July. The Blazers owe Lillard $216 over the next four years. Do they dump him and begin a bigger rebuild? Or do the Blazers keep Lillard as the piece to build around?
Many of the NBA draft experts believe that the Hornets will select Miller. That leaves Portland with a conundrum. The next best prospect on the board is G-League guard Scoot Henderson. The 6-2 Henderson is essentially a 19-year-old version of Lillard. Drafting him makes absolutely no sense…unless the Blazers are thinking of trading their star.
If the Hornets take Henderson, that would leave Portland with Miller. That’s a win-win as the former Alabama star would fill a need in the Trail Blazers lineup. He could play behind Grant or with Grant in a small-ball lineup.
The point here is this. Whether Portland trades the No. 3 pick or not, they are in a good position for the future.
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Lillard to Philly?
Portland is now perfectly positioned to serve as the turning point for the upcoming draft as well as a summer of player movement.
Years of Lillard trade rumors have circulated, and all season long there was talk of Lillard and Joel Embiid wanting to play together. Could it happen this summer?
Embiid, who was recently named the league’s MVP, recently dissed his entire team after another early playoff exit by the Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid might be looking for a change.
The No. 3 pick becomes one of the strongest trade chips available if the Blazers want to keep Lillard and the Hornets draft Miller.
Could the 76ers opt to blow everything apart and move Embiid to Portland if James Harden departs Philadelphia? A tempting opportunity to start again in Philadelphia with Tyrese Maxey would be provided by an offer centered on the No. 3 pick and one of either Sharpe or Simons. Lillard and Embiid would start competing for a top-3 seed in the West immediately.
It’s an interesting thought and one that would benefit Portland. So would another alternative.
Portland Uses NBA Draft to Change Course
The Hornets select Miller and Portland decides that 11 years of Dame Time is enough. The Blazers don’t have much to show for all the years Lillard has played in Rip City.
Portland decides to draft Henderson and build the future around him. He’s a great talent who skipped college and played in the G-League last year.
The Trail Blazers can command a pretty high price for Lillard. Depending on what they get for him, a core of Henderson, Sharpe, and Simons – all under 23 – would be pretty exciting.
The Lillard trade could bring in a player like Tyrese Maxey from Philly. Other possible destinations include Miami or Los Angeles, either the Clippers or the Lakers. There are several potential candidates that could end up in Portland to strengthen a rebuild.
The Blazers could also hoard some draft picks and continue to rebuild with the 2024 NBA draft as well as a few trade deadline deals next season.
Regardless, Portland, like San Antonio, was a big winner at the NBA’s draft lottery.