"and that means the Orlando Magic will have the first pick in the NBA Draft."
That is what NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum said last year when the Orlando Magic won the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery and what if he utters those words again? Can you imagine the shock and awe?
Tuesday night the next "Golden Ticket" will be announced. Some NBA team will get to draft the next unicorn in Victor Wembanyama. He is considered the best draft prospect since...maybe LeBron James and even the King thinks the 7-foot-4 kid is the next big thing. He can shoot threes like a guard and dunk like a dominant big man. His basketball smarts are beyond his age and physically appears to be more NBA ready than others who scale above 7-feet.
The NBA knows Wembanyama is the next "chosen one" and where he plays is a big deal.
In the history of the NBA Draft Lottery, which started in 1985 with the Knicks winning the top pick and taking Patrick Ewing, only two teams have won the lottery two years in a row. The Orlando Magic won the big prize in 1992 and took Shaquille O'Neal. That year the team had a 15.15% chance of landing the top pick. In 1993 the Magic had a 1.52% chance of getting the first pick. They won the lottery and picked Chris Webber and then traded him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway.
So upset that the Magic won the lottery in consecutive years the league changed the lottery to prevent scenarios where a team that won 41 games could get the first pick. In 2013 and 2014 the Cleveland Cavaliers won the lottery and drafted Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. Bennett might be the worst top overall pick ever and was out of the league in four seasons.
But with a 9% chance of landing the top pick, what if the Magic pull some lottery luck again and win another NBA Draft Lottery? The team has won this event in 1992, 1993, 2004 and 2022. The Magic won the lottery in 2004 with a 25% chance and chose Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor. Last year the team had a 14% chance of getting the top pick and then took Paolo Banchero.
The Magic have the sixth best chance to land the top pick. The Pistons, Rockets and Spurs have a 14% chance of getting the first pick. Charlotte has a 12.5% chance and Portland 10.5%.
Wembanyama might be worth a billion dollars to the team that gets to draft him. He sells tickets, gets you eyeballs and national TV appearances and if he is as good as projected he elevates your franchise on so many levels.
Most recent NBA valuations have the Magic worth between $1.8-1.9B. It's not a stretch to think Wembanyama might increase the value of the franchise by 50%. Now imagine what he does to a young team with a budding star in Banchero and what he might mean in attracting free agents. Shaq, Penny and Dwight were good enough to make players like Horace Grant and Rashad Lewis want to come to Orlando. A Wembanyama, Banchero, Wagner, Fultz quartet would be fun and win games and attract key role players. They would not only be a playoff team but might be a legitimate threat in the east to get past the first round and with teams like the Sixers and Bucks assessing their teams the conference opens up a bit in the coming seasons.
Ok, ok, ok...I am getting way ahead of myself but one can dream. But Victor Wembanyama changes the perception of your team. Paolo and the team's performance this past season have made basketball people pay attention to what is happening in Orlando. But the general view of NBA fans is that Orlando is a nice team in a nice town. A big pick like this changes the view of your franchise globally. Wembanyama can have a......careful here...Shaq like effect beyond the borders of this country. Kids across the world would don Orlando Magic jerseys again and the franchise could return to "rock star" status like the days when Shaq and Penny were must-watch TV.
Of course, the Pistons could win the lottery tomorrow night but that's no fun. Does the league want its next unicorn to play in Detroit? San Antonio? Charlotte? If the envelope was frozen for the Knicks in 1985 why not a combination of numbers to send Vic to our city. Pair him with Paolo and let's ride again in this town with two superstars and bring the buzz back. We can always dream of another lottery miracle...
Nuggets: New Suns' owner Matt Ishbia might be a rich guy who was able to spend $4B to buy an NBA team. But it doesn't mean he knows how to run an NBA franchise. While he did play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, that doesn't make one an expert in making decisions like he did in the past few months. After the Suns were a joke as one of the worst franchises in the league, Monty Williams was hired and the team made a few deals and Devin Booker blossomed into a budding superstar. They won 64 games last season and Williams was coach of the year. Ishbia bought the team and was the one who made the trade for Kevin Durant and was reportedly involved in every aspect of that deal and not his front office. The Suns gave up a lot to get Durant and became the favorites to win the west. Durant was not healthy and their bench was decimated after the trade. They got bounced in the second round by the top-seeded Nuggets and Ishbia fired Monty Williams one day after the series ended. Apparently he didn't think highly of Williams and wants to hire his own coach. Names to watch include Nick Nurse(fired in Toronto) and Mike Budenholzer(fired in Milwaukee) and perhaps a surprise name Ishbia is keeping close to his vest. It's his team and he overpaid for it but he now is in the market for a coach, a star in Kevin Durant who wanted to play for Williams, a center who just signed a big contract that no one wants and an aging point guard that is not getting any younger. Good luck with the new purchase...The XFL season is over and Bob Stoops' team won despite having a losing record in the regular season. That's all I got...Jay Wright to the Knicks. There I said it. Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart played for him at Villanova. If the Knicks don't hire him then the Sixers should once they let Doc Rivers go...Seattle and Carolina for the Stanley Cup? Sure, why not...Wrestling manager seems like an exhausting job...
Final note: A worker honey bee lives anywhere from five weeks to six months. That's a tough life.