By now you’ve probably heard his name. Victor Wembanyama. He’s projected to be the first overall pick in the 2023 draft, but he probably would have been this years first overall pick. There’s going to be other players in the 2023 draft that are worth taking, but every team should be tanking this season for the chance to draft Wembanyama. Just go watch a highlight video, or the U-19 Latvia tourney, or maybe even the video of the sixteen-year-old Wembanyama going one-on-one with Jazz fans favorite three time defensive player of the year. He makes quite a few baskets. One might ask the question why there wasn’t any footage of Vic playing defense against Rudy and then you go "oh yeah, I watched Rudy dribble the ball against the Mavericks in the playoffs". But that’s not the point of this article. The point is what does a team need to do to get Victor Wembanyama? The answer is obvious, and that is to tank. But what are your odds? Who has the best odds? And how can you get better odds?
To start, what are the odds of a team getting the number one overall pick and everyone in the front office getting a raise? Please go to the following Wikipedia, link here. Which is for the NBA draft lottery odds. Go to the Chances of Winning section. I'll be referencing it for the following.
The obvious here is that if you want the best odds you need to be have one of the three worst records in the league. If you tie with a team, the odds get added together and divided by two (or more if there are multiple teams) and then those odds go to both teams, this is called interpolation. Now what would be really cool is your team, the one that is tanking, also had more than just one pick in the first round. This would essentially add your odds together in each column. Yeah, eventually the math adds up to 200% but that’s what happens when you have two of a good thing.
What’s interesting to me is that every lottery team gets a shot at the first four picks, but after that gets a range of 1 to 5 picks that they have to fall within. A cool thought experiment is what are the odds that no bottom four team gets a bottom four pick. To do this, we take the probability that the top four teams don’t get each pick and multiply them together. So something like 1-P(bottom four team gets pick) times all the others. The probabilities of that happening for each pick are 1 = 45.5%; 2 = 47.5%; 3 = 49.9%; 4 = 52.6% (numbers rounded just cuz). The probability of no bottom four team gets a top four pick is 45.5%*47.5%*49.9%*52.6% which equals 5.67%. From this that would mean the next four picks would automatically be the bottom four teams in order. God that’d be wild.
As much fun as that was, the next question is who has the best odds. To start we have to look at who even would have their first-round pick. Which gets pretty crazy real quick with the amount of swaps and protections but what is crazy about this draft is how many teams that have their 2023 pick protected at least for the first ten picks. The bulls only own for the first four picks and after that they send it to Orlando (which will probably happen. The Brooklyn Nets get Philly’s pick (probably not a lottery). Houston can swap for Brooklyn’s pick (but why?) and they also own Milwaukee’s (again probably not a lottery). Pelicans can swap with the Lakers (ok maybe this could happen but a low chance of the number 1. OKC can swap their pick for the Clippers, which again why? WHY? Let’s just remove those swaps under the assumption that the team gets the number 1 pick. That’s pretty much it. From this I really just want to congratulate the Sacramento Kings for not doing what we all expected them to do. Also, good on the Jazz for not even having protections on the pick. Some might ask, well didn’t the Spurs just get a first-round pick from Atlanta? Well, yes, they did. But that pick was from Charlotte and has protections until pick 17, so that’s not getting you Wembanyama. From these notes, the Pelicans are the only real team that might get better odds at the number one pick if the Lakers once again don’t make the playoffs. But, then again can anyone count out Lebron? Maybe Houston could swap for Brooklyn’s pick if the situation there doesn’t get better there, but I’m going to keep them as a playoff team for this exercise.
What’re the odds for teams to win the NBA championship and what does it tell us about the lottery? Here are the odds from Draftkings in order ("/" indicates equal odds): Warriors/Clippers, Boston, Bucks, Nets, Suns, 76ers, Nuggets/Grizz/Mavs, Heat, Lakers, Pels, Hawks, Jazz, Bulls/Raptors/T-wolves, Blazers, Cavs, Hornets, Knicks, Spurs/Wizards, Pacers, Pistons, Thunder/Kings, and finally Magic/Rockets. Which means the lottery teams in order of worst record would be Magic/Rockets (1/2), Thunder/Kings (3/4), Pistons (5), Pacers(6), Spurs/Wizards(7/8), Knicks (9, congrats on 4.5%), Hornets (10), Cavs (11), Blazers (12), T-Wolves (13), and Jazz (14). Seven west and seven east. So I’m saying the Jazz have a chance! I would like to mention that the Spurs probably change to a bottom 3 team since it looks like they are going for Vic.
The answer to who has the best chances to get Wembanyama is really whoever decides to bench everyone and play guys from the G-League. By the Draftkings estimate the Pels wouldn’t get an addition of odds unless both them and the lakers became lottery teams. At that point though, they probably aren’t getting more than 14%. If I’m being honest, every team that isn’t extremely confident they are going to be in the conference finals should try. What’s the point of being just another playoff team when you totally destroy your chances of getting a generational player? If you’re a front office exec and you aren’t at least thinking it, you should probably start. Imagine if you were playing roulette and you had to put your seasons worth of money on 5 numbers, but if one of those numbers hits then you get every chip on 5 roulette tables including what the casino has. Would you do it? Because I would.
The next question you have to ask yourself, is how do you get better odds? Well, the obvious is get Orlando/Houston/OKC/Spurs/Pistons/Kings pick for next year. Do you really think they’ll give that up for anything anyone has? Is Giannis going to help any of those teams win a championship next year? Or the year after? Or till the end of his contract? So why would they do it? Just tank harder than they would and hope that your 14% wins.