The Southwest Division potentially adds another star that may change the game as we know it
Chicago – It’s 2:30 AM in Paris and Victor Wembanyama receives word that he is potentially going to the San Antonio Spurs as the franchise was revealed as the recipients of the number one pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. This season was an interesting one to say the least as multiple struggling teams were clamoring for a chance to sign the seven-foot-four French phenom who had just played with his team, the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, earlier in the day. Nicknamed “Wemby”, he is averaging almost 22 points in the Ligue Nationale de Basket Pro A (also known as Betclic Elite) and is being touted as the most anticipated NBA prospect since Lebron James. A shot creator with a killer step back three that can play both sides of the ball with his eight-foot wingspan makes “Wemby” almost a sure thing. The nineteen-year-old already knows what he wants to do, “win a ring ASAP.”
Spurs owner Peter J. Holt was the representative for the Spurs and was beating on his podium as he celebrated his team being announced as winning the draft lottery. “I might faint. we’re so excited”, he said on Tuesday night. Holt also said that “It’s going to be unbelievable… our future [is] already bright [but] now, it’s going to be through the moon.” The Spurs organization has had its share of international talent who excelled in their time in the NBA. With names like Manu Ginobili and fellow Frenchman Tony Parker, “Wemby” is in good company as a European Spur. Spurs general manager Brian Wright had this to add, “When you use the word generational talent, it extends beyond your ability to put the ball in the basket, [and] he’s unique in so many ways.”
This is the third time the franchise has received the number one pick with those picks being “The Admiral” David Robinson in 1987 and “The Big Fundamental” Tim Duncan in 1997. These two would go on to turn the franchise into a dynasty. Together, the duo would bring a total of five NBA championships, three Most Valuable Player awards, twenty-five All Star selections, and they were both named Rookie of the Year in their respective rookie seasons. So far, the track record shows that the future looks promising for Victor and his home in the Lone Star State. Speaking of Texas, the two other franchises were also in the running for the potential game changer. Unfortunately for one, the cards weren’t in their favor and for the other, they had a hefty price to pay to stay in the race.
Let us start with the Houston Rockets. The franchise started with the same odds as the Spurs and the Detroit Pistons (who ended up with the fifth pick). The Rockets would fall all the way to fourth with the Charlotte Hornets and the Portland Trail Blazers taking the second and third picks. A couple changes have happened during Houston’s offseason prior to the draft. The first was the firing of head coach Stephen Silas. In his three seasons as head coach, he only won 59 out of the 236 games he coached. “This organization gave me an opportunity for my dad to see me as an NBA head coach before he passed (his father was three-time NBA champion and former head coach Paul Silas)”, as he told USA Today’s Brian Barefield. Prior to Silas being hired, NBA All Star James Harden demanded a trade from the Rockets.
His request was granted right before the trade deadline as he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets during the 2020-2021 season (he then was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers the following season). It would also be revealed that John Wall was intentionally shut down during his time with the Rockets. On Theo Pinson’s podcast, “Run Your Race,” Wall claimed that Houston was tanking, and the organization was “beyond trash”. Wall would be traded back to Houston then eventually bought out and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets have a little silver lining with their young talent like Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. as a part of their rebuild. With the hiring of Ime Udoka (we won’t talk about his time in Boston) and the rumored reunion of a certain bearded superstar, it’s interesting to see what Houston does with the number four pick and how they will fare in free agency.
To round off our Texas trio are the Dallas Mavericks, who went from the Western Conference Finals to being fined for intentional tanking. The prior offseason was already a wild one with guard Jalen Brunson leaving to join the New York Knicks. He signed a $110 million deal for four years and has found his footing in the Big Apple (it doesn’t hurt that his dad, former NBA player Rick Brunson, is an assistant coach for the Knickerbockers either). With Brunson not returning, the Mavs made a trade with the aforementioned Rockets that would bring Christian Wood to the Big D. That trade with the addition of the returning Javale McGee made it seem as if they had a scheme in place for success. That wouldn’t be the case as they traded fan favorite Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, and a pick for NBA superstar Kyrie Irving and Markieff Morris. The holes they tried to fix in defense with McGee were opened once again with the loss of Finney-Smith and the team started to feel the effects.
Fast forward to the end of the regular season when the Mavs decided to (allegedly) lose intentionally since the playoffs and the play-in looked out of reach. So, in the middle of the last road trip of the season, they attempted to shut down their All-Star backcourt of Luka Doncic and Irving. That resulted in a $750,000 fine from the league. The “investment” paid off as the Mavericks got the tenth pick in this year’s draft. Mavericks’ general manager Nico Harrison told Sports Illustrated’s Grant Afseth that he was, “relieved once it got to the eleventh pick” and when asked about the whispers of them trading the pick, he added that, “I don’t know anything about the trade rumors. We [have] to look at every possible scenario, so we’ll do that for sure.” There’s a lot of things that the Mavs need to address like the “new faces” head coach Jason Kidd said will be on the team, re-signing Kyrie, and solving their defensive woes to rebuild the once playoff contenders. I personally can’t wait to see who makes the trip to both Spain and Saudi Arabia in preseason for Dallas.
Follow Rashad Miller on all social media @theuncoolurban for more sports content as well as his Youtube channel under the same name.