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Spurs win NBA draft lottery; Victor Wembanyama on the way

THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS may have lost 60 games this season, but they were huge winners Tuesday night in Chicago when they prevailed in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.

The Spurs were one of three teams with a 14 percent chance of landing the top pick in the NBA draft lottery and now will surely use the pick on Mr. Wembanyama, the 19-year-old French sensation, in the June 22 draft.

San Antonio has landed big-time stars with the No. 1 overall choice in the past, selecting David Robinson first in 1987 and Tim Duncan 10 years later.

“It’s a really special moment that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Wembanyama said from Paris on ESPN. “… I’m trying to win a ring ASAP.”

The 7-foot-4 Mr. Wembanyama is considered the best NBA prospect since LeBron James went No. 1 overall in 2003.

“I might faint, I’m so excited,” Spurs managing partner Peter J. Holt said on ESPN’s broadcast. “The city of San Antonio, our fans, we just have so many people that love the Spurs. We’re pumped.”

The Charlotte Hornets will select second, followed by the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets. Houston also had a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery.

The Detroit Pistons, the third team with a 14 percent chance of landing the first pick, will choose fifth.

Scoot Henderson of G League Ignite and Alabama’s Brandon Miller are the leading candidates to be the No. 2 and 3 picks.

Wembanyama played his final regular-season game in France on Tuesday and scored 22 points as Boulogne-Levallois recorded a 93-85 win over Paris Basketball. He scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter for the Metropolitans 92.

“He’s 19 and his life is going to totally change,” Metropolitans 92 coach Vincent Collet told reporters afterward.

Wembanyama will have to adjust to living in a foreign country as well as playing against the best men in the world. Though if he lands with the Spurs, he will be coached by legendary Hall of Famer Gregg Popovich.

Only time will tell whether the Spurs hit the No. 1 overall pick jackpot again.

Robinson and Duncan are both members of the NBA’s 75th anniversary all-time team and have been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. They both were the key figures of numerous championship teams, with Mr. Duncan earning five title rings and Mr. Robinson winning two.

Spurs general manager Brian Wright, who was in the drawing room in Chicago, immediately felt the impact of winning the lottery.

“I’m excited for the city, for the franchise,” Mr. Wright told reporters. “Tonight was a great start. It’s the beginning, not the end. There is still a lot of work to do.”

San Antonio has missed the playoffs in four straight campaigns and the 22-60 record this season was the third-worst in franchise history.

The Orlando Magic own the sixth and 11th picks, the latter coming from the Chicago Bulls as part of the package for acquiring Nikola Vucevic in 2021.

The Indiana Pacers will pick seventh, followed by the Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. Dallas landing the 10th pick was crucial for the franchise: If the pick had been 11th or lower, it would have gone to the New York Knicks as part of the 2019 deal for Kristaps Porzingis.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will select 12th, followed by the Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans. — Reuters

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