Will teams lose out on their own for Victor Wembanyama?

Victor Wembanyama, Boulogne-Levallois player, against ADA Blois on October 21, 2022. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

NBA teams are tempted to miss their season in order to have the number 1 pick in the next draft, thereby recruiting Frenchman Victor Wembanyama. A heresy?

This is an issue the NBA takes seriously. “We warned them, we will be extra helpful this year“, warned Adam Silver, the big boss of the American basketball league, on the microphone ofESPN in October. This issue? This is “tanking”, the fact of willingly (but not too badly) losing matches during the season. Because the lower a team ranks in the NBA, the more likely it is to have a high pick, even the first pick in the early summer draft. And this season, one young man is fueling the tanking madness: Victor Wembanyama.

I know a lot of NBA teams are salivating at the thought of reboundingthe Frenchman from Boulogne-Levallois, smiled at Adam Silver. Smile in front. The draft system allows, in theory, to balance the forces of the championship. Less good teams recruit the best youngsters and end up going back to the front. But those with soft stomachs, or a little less, may resign their chance at the title.

Tanking, a long-term vision

They see the value of positioning themselves for the next draft rather than immediate success, explained Tania Ganguli, journalist at New York Times. They will defend themselves by saying that the goal is long-term development.“but”defeat is not in the spirit of sportregrets Jacques Monclar, consultant for be SportsNBA broadcaster in France.

How is tanking accomplished? Usually, this is by transfer. A team will let go of its best players and keep the youngsters with high potential, even if they are not yet reporting wins. “You have to play to win recalls Jacques Monclar. But if you don’t have players who can win…“Some teams will also, at the end of the season, put their stars to rest if there is no longer any chance of staying in the playoffs.

The draft lottery to solve the problem

The main question remains: is the presentation a myth or a reality? “There is a bit of both balance Jacques Monclar. This is becoming a reality.“Launched on this topic on Twitter in March 2018, the French defender Evan Fournier, then in Orlando, was clear:”players never tank.The proof at the beginning of the season. “Everyone thought the Utah Jazz would have fun after trading Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, but they started the season with 3 wins“, stressed Tania Ganguli. The San Antonio Spurs, one of the weakest teams on paper, have won 3 of their first 4 games.

It’s too early to guarantee that Utah, San Antonio and others won’t tank late in the season. And, anyway, there is no guarantee that it will pay off. The NBA has set limits on this evil that eats away at its image. His first response was draft lottery reform. As of 2019, the team with the worst win/loss ratio has a 25% chance of getting the 1st pick, the second worst team 19%, and so on. In 2019, the three worst teams have a 14% chance of getting the 1st pick. “Me, with a 14% chance, I will not sacrifice my image with fans, the media and other players“said Jacques Monclar.

Each year in May, one month before the draft, the lottery determines the order in which NBA teams select new players. JEFF HAYNES/Getty Images via AFP

A team can tank and still miss Victor Wembanyama“, abundant in Tania Ganguli. The NBA’s second response to tanking is the famous “play-in tournament”. Previously, teams from 1st to 8th place in each conference (East and West) reached the playoffs. From 2020, only the first 6 teams will go there. Teams ranked 7th through 10th compete in a mini-tournament for the remaining tickets. What revived the interest to fight to the end for soft underbelly teams.

That certainly won’t stop teams from trying for Victor Wembanyama. “A nice compliment to Victor, very rewarding“, underlined Jacques Monclar, former player with 201 selections for the Blues. Adam Silver even threatened, with humor, to install a relegation system in the G-League, the championship where reserve teams of NBA franchises change. “It doesn’t make sense he defused. There is no perfect solution, but we continue to believe that the draft is the right way to renew our championship.Across the Atlantic, many NBA leaders are convinced: the team that will host Wembanyama will be destroyed.

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