Victor Wembanyama’s NBA tank will be ugly. But it could inspire change | N.B.A

Victor Wembanyama’s NBA tank will be ugly. But it could inspire change | N.B.A

Victor Wembanyama is the kind of man you dream of N.B.A 2K “create a player” mode. Only less realistic.

The 7-foot-4 forward with an 8-foot wingspan is as coordinated as he is big; as fluid as it is dynamic; and as skilled as he is intelligent. Wembanyama can do everything from acrobatically blocking shots to hit move of three a collapsing over everyone.

The 18-year-old Frenchman has been regarded as the best basketball prospect of all time, on par with LeBron James, who was literally hailed as “The Chosen One”. Wembanyama will be the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, barring unforeseen circumstances. It is expected to add more 500 million dollars to the value of the franchise that drafts him and he will almost certainly win them a lot of games as well.

And this NBA season will look dramatically different because of him.

Wembanyama is so talented that some executives had already started emptying their squads ahead of the 2022-23 season, trading their best players for future draft picks that could hopefully be used to select the teenager.

The San Antonio Spurs traded their best player, Dejounte Murray, who at just 26 years old was named to his first All-Star team last season, for three unprotected first-round picks and a trade of picks. The Utah Jazz, who were the The No. 1 seed in the Western Conference has been around for just two seasons, traded the two players most responsible for getting them there, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell for seven unprotected first-round picks and three pick trades. And teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons are already so bad that they don’t even need to make a trade to guarantee they’ll have a shot at owning the No. 1 pick next year.

All of these teams are actively trying to get worse because that’s exactly what the NBA incentivizes: the teams that end up with the worst records are rewarded with the best odds win the draft lottery and pick at the top of the 2023 draft: The three worst teams in the league each have a 14% chance of getting the first pick, and thus Wembanyama. And considering that drafting a generational prospect is by far the easiest way to win a championship, it’s no wonder so many teams are trying.

But that strategy leads to some truly must-see basketball toward the end of the season, usually in March and April, when teams start looking for the bottom of the standings by trading away good players, resting their remaining veterans, or exaggerating injuries in the maximum young stars This year, with Wembanyama on the market and hot prospects like Scoot Henderson and Amen Thompson right behind him, the tank could be even worse than usual.

“I can tell you for sure what Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson did [at recent exhibition games] in Las Vegas accelerated the ‘when do we pull the plug?’ schedule in the minds of owners and decision makers around the league,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said recently. on his podcast. “Like, ‘Maybe we’d go a little bit out of the season with about 15 games to go, if that’s what we normally do,'” [to] “Uh, we’ll look at the calendar on January 1st and then we can decide when to pay for the season.”

This season is off to a surprisingly competitive start, with 16 teams within 3.0 games of a .500 record more than a quarter into the season. However, the parity we usually see at the start of the season is almost always diluted towards the end. In fact, league executives remain confident that teams that now look competent will still be pulling the plug. We’re already seeing teams that got off to a hot start, like the Jazz and Spurs, on long losing streaks. If anything, more teams than ever have the potential to pull the plug and start shooting. And part of it has to do with reformed NBA lottery odds.

The lottery used to be even more tilted toward the bottom until the NBA flattened the odds in 2019. Now the teams with the three worst records in the league at the end of the season each have a 14% chance of making it number 1 pick (the chances of the fourth, fifth and sixth worst teams are not much lower, at 12.5%, 10.5% and 9% respectively). The new structure could have the opposite effect to what was intended. In fact, it may incentivize more teams to close, since they no longer have to be among the worst teams in the league to have a chance at the first pick. And with Wembanyama on the line, more teams than ever may choose to close.

“While it may seem like there are only a handful of bad teams a quarter of the way through the season, that number could grow to 10 by the end of the season, with teams that disappoint early on deciding to blow it before we know it. that,” Lowe said.

Also, while this year is unique because of Wembanyama, this is not a year for many teams. This flawed incentive structure leads to a landscape in which some teams lock themselves up for several years in a row, stockpiling draft picks and assets to prepare for the future without regard for the present. For example, the Thunder are in the third year of a rebuild despite having an All-NBA talent in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and plenty of picks they could use to build around him. And trading their All-Stars, the Jazz and Spurs appear to be in for a long rebuild even if they draft Wembanyama.

It’s unfair to make any fan wait that long or make any NBA fan watch non-competitive basketball since January, considering there’s still more than half of the season left to play. And worst of all, it’s unnecessary.

While it’s true that rising to the top of the draft year after year is the easiest way to land a superstar and have long-term success, it’s not the only way. And it’s about time we stopped buying into the narrative that executives like Danny Ainge in Utah are smart to trade All-Star-level players on long-term contracts for first-round picks when that’s the easiest kind of trade to achieve in the NBA. . We need to start asking more of high-paid basketball executives, such as finding more creative ways to build competitive teams. And there are several examples of unhinged success in the modern NBA.

Look at the Golden State Warriors, who drafted Steph Curry seventh overall in 2009, Klay Thompson 11th overall in 2011 and Draymond Green 35th overall in 2012, building a system that perfectly suited Curry’s unique talents. The Toronto Raptors won an NBA championship in 2019 without a single lottery pick on the team, using smart trades to land Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol. While the Milwaukee Bucks drafted their two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, out of the lottery spots at No. 15 in 2013. All three teams developed talent to back up their stars, and a large part of that development went to learn to play winning. basketball to the winning teams. Finding gems late in the draft, making smart trades, and developing hidden talent is difficult, but that doesn’t make it impossible.

Still, it’s hard to blame any of these tank teams for taking the easy way out. The way the NBA’s incentive structure is set up, with the worst teams rewarded with top picks, it makes sense to trade your best players and hit rock bottom, especially with the prospect of Wembanyama’s caliber in the draft.

But what if it wasn’t?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said: “I know many of our NBA teams are salivating at the idea that potentially through our lottery, they can get [Wembanyama], so they should all compete really hard next season.” Later, he doubled down and said, “We put the teams on notice. We will be paying special attention to the subject [of tanking] this year.”

But words won’t cut it (especially words that become less meaningful after Silver announced that the NBA app will stream all Wembanyama games in the French league this season). If Silver wants parity, than him said is his goal for the NBA and that it would make for a much more entertaining product, especially towards the end of the season – something will have to be done. And there are a few options:

  • After the regular season ends, hold a tournament between all or some non-playoff teams to compete for draft position, with the winner getting the first overall pick.

  • Once a team has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, place it in a different leaderboard in which it competes for draft position, with the best record after elimination from the playoffs winning the No. 1.

  • Create a simple rule that discourages long-term lockouts, such as not allowing a team to return to the top three or top five of the lottery three years in a row, or prohibiting a team from winning the lottery two years in a row.

  • descent Keep the lottery format as is, but have the worst team relegated to the G League, with a chance to return to the NBA. The worst team would still get the top pick, but would have to endure the financial losses of one season in the G League, while a G League team would move on to the NBA.

Of course, there are difficulties in implementing any of these ideas, and more than half of the team’s owners would probably have to agree to any changes to the current format. The relegation idea is particularly tricky, with Silver saying he’s considered it, but it would be “destabilizing” for the NBA, and it’s hard to imagine owners voting for something that could lose them a lot of money. The league may be a few years away from relegation, but as the G League becomes more competitive, more lucrative and more international (with the Mexico City Captains joining this season), it could one day be ready .

For now, though, the NBA needs to find an immediate fix to the current model, because the tanking we’re likely to see this season, especially toward the end, but potentially early January, will be entirely unwatchable. Or, as a friend of mine put it more eloquently after seeing Wembanyama play for the first time, “the tank is going to be devilish.”

Hopefully, it will also be a catalyst for change.

#Victor #Wembanyamas #NBA #tank #ugly #inspire #change #N.B.A

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