CHICAGO (AP) — Victor Wembanyama is now set to begin his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs, after they won the NBA draft lottery and the No. 1 overall pick on Tuesday night.
The Spurs were one of three teams with the best odds — 14% — to land the No. 1 pick, which they’ll almost certainly use on Wembanyama. The 7-foot-3 French 19-year-old is one of the most highly touted prospects in NBA history and will be expected to make an immediate impact on the league.
And he had a message for San Antonio.
“I’m trying to win a ring ASAP,” Wembanyama told ESPN after the lottery results. “So be ready.”
It’s the third time the Spurs have won the lottery, and on both previous occasions they made picks that paid off for decades. They chose David Robinson in 1987, Tim Duncan in 1997, and those selections were a major part of how the Spurs became a team that won five NBA titles under coach Gregg Popovich.
“Our future was already bright,” Spurs managing partner Peter J. Holt said. “Now, it’s going to be through the moon.”
General manager Brian Wright called it “an incredible day” for the franchise and the fans.
Charlotte will pick second, Portland moved up to third, and Houston fell to fourth.
“This draft is a deep, talented one,” Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said. “We know picks one through six there’s always gems to be found, but to move up into the top three is really exciting.”
As for getting the No. 1 pick in a year like this?
“People talk about generational talents and you only think on-court skill, but it’s bigger than that,” Wright said. “Peter talked about his ability to be a great teammate, his ability to think the game, unique challenges. You see him doing things that you wouldn’t have even guessed someone could do — his approach, his professionalism. I think when you use the word generational talent, it extends beyond just your ability to put the ball in the basket. And he’s unique in so many ways.”
The Spurs were 22-60 this season, tied for the second-worst record in the NBA. Popovich and the Spurs have had incredible success with international players in the past — most notably, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, who owns the French team that Wembanyama played for last season.
“He’s an incredible young man,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN as part of its draft lottery broadcast. “He’s 19 years old and I didn’t take out a yardstick or meter stick or whatever they use in France, but he seemed all of 7-4 to me. … He clearly appears to be a generational talent.”
Wembanyama finished his regular season with Boulogne-Levallois of France’s top pro league earlier Tuesday, his 22-point effort good enough for him to clinch the league’s scoring title. It was shortly past 2 a.m. Wednesday in Paris when the lottery results were revealed, and Wembanyama was gathered with family and friends for a celebration.
“Can’t really describe it,” Wembanyama said in his interview with ESPN, adding “it’s a really special moment.”
Finally, he knows where his NBA journey will begin. His agents did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.
“I think the team that has the first choice isn’t going to get it wrong,” said Vincent Collet, Wembanyama’s coach in France and also the coach of the French national team — which Wembanyama is expected to play for this summer at the World Cup and next summer at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Detroit had the worst record in the NBA and was one of the three teams with the best odds of winning. The Pistons wound up falling all the way to fifth, the worst of their possible outcomes.
The rest of the lottery order: Orlando will pick sixth, Indiana seventh, Washington eighth, Utah ninth, Dallas 10th, Orlando (from Chicago as part of an earlier trade) in 11th, Oklahoma City 12th, Toronto 13th, and New Orleans 14th.
Wembanyama is wrapping up his third professional season in France and has been the consensus top pick for months. He has the height of a center, the shooting touch of a wing and the passing ability of a point guard.
He wasn’t at the lottery because of his game schedule in France. But many of the other top prospects — Scoot Henderson of the G League Ignite, Brandon Miller of Alabama, twin brothers Amen and Ausar Thompson of the Overtime Elite program — were in the room to watch the lottery results get unveiled and get a little better idea of where they may be heading to start their NBA careers.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.
Who is Victor Wembanyama? The NBA is about to get the answer to that question
The Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes has a winner. It’s the San Antonio Spurs.
The NBA draft lottery was Tuesday night in Chicago and 14 teams had hope that the ping-pong balls will bounce their way, giving them the No. 1 pick this year and the chance to draft Wembanyama.
The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Spurs all had the best chance of winning the lottery and getting the No. 1 pick — 14%, or about 7-1 odds. But the Spurs got the win, and now Wembanyama’s career will start with legendary coach Gregg Popovich, the NBA’s all-time win leader.
Here is a look at what all the fuss is about:
WHO IS VICTOR WEMBANYAMA?
He’s one of the most talked-about players in the world right now, for good and obvious reasons. He is a 7-foot-3, 19-year-old phenom who is wrapping up his third professional season in France and is about to start his NBA career. LeBron James calls Wembanyama “an alien,” and says that with the utmost of respect. Wembanyama has the height of a center, the shooting touch of a wing and the passing ability of a point guard. His wingspan is nearly 8 feet and he can nearly grab the rim — 10 feet in the air — without even jumping.
WHAT WEMBANYAMA’S BACKGROUND?
His parents are both tall and both very athletic. His father, Felix Wembanyama, is about 6-foot-5 and was a high jumper. His mother, Elodie de Fautereau; is about 6-foot-3 and was a basketball standout. They have tried to keep life very normal for a son who just happens to have worldwide fame already. And Wembanyama has tried to be a normal kid; he likes video games, art, reading and soccer.
WHAT HAPPENED TUESDAY?
The winner of the lottery gets the chance to make the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft. So, while Wembanyama isn’t officially a member of the Spurs yet, it’s a foregone conclusion that — barring some sort of incredible trade — he’ll be selected by San Antonio in June and could be with his new club for summer league games in early July.
HOW WILL HE FIT IN THE NBA?
There is a learning curve for everybody, even No. 1 draft picks. And it’s a rite of passage for all rookies, especially highly touted ones, to get challenged by established NBA players — few of them are taller, but many are stronger and more experienced. He will have some rough moments, for certain. But he will make any team better, maybe much better, right away.
WHERE HAS HE PLAYED?
He became a full-time pro in the 2020-21 season with the French club Nanterre. He has been on three teams in his three seasons in the French league, his year with Nanterre followed by a season with the powerhouse club ASVEL — owned by Spurs great Tony Parker — and this season with Boulogne-Levallois. His current team wrapped up its regular season on Tuesday (which is why he wasn’t at the draft lottery) and is about to open the playoffs.