Oct 4, 2022; Henderson, NV, USA; Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 forward Victor Wembanyama (1) smiles after the game against the NBA G League Ignite at The Dollar Loan Center. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
Tuesday’s lottery could answer Rockets’ prayers
Tilman Fertitta made a simple request as he concluded a television interview while walking the streets of Galveston during Mardi Gras.
“Pray for Victor!” He urged KPRC viewers with a drink in his left hand.
We’ll never know for sure, but it’s unlikely he was talking about former Rockets guard Victor Oladipo, who had missed the previous seven games with a sprained ankle, Viktor Yushchenko, the former President of Ukraine, or some random friend name Victor going through a tough time, as we all do from time-to-time.
The more likely scenario was that the Rockets owner wanted people to pray his team would win the opportunity to draft Victor Wembamyama in next month’s NBA Draft, and who could blame him. The 19-year-old Frenchman is arguably the best prospect to enter the NBA since LeBron James two decades ago.
At 7-foot-3, Wembamyama can do everything on a basketball floor. He can shoot, he can get to the rim, he can make plays for others, he can defend at the rim, and he can defend along the perimeter. He’s the type of player that could seemingly only be created in a video game. He went viral last month when he finished his own missed step-back three-pointer with a putback dunk.
The Rockets, along with the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, will have the best chance to come out of Tuesday’s lottery with the top pick, but those odds are just 14%, so there’s a 6-of-7 chance someone else has their prayer’s answered, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other prizes in this year’s draft.
Point guard Scoot Henderson and wing Brandon Miller would likely be the number one pick in any other draft. Henderson is an elite athlete who, as a point guard, draws comparisons to former MVPs Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose, while at 6-foot-9, Miller is a do-everything player at both ends of the floor who would be a seamless fit with the young group already assembled by general manager Rafael Stone over the last two years.
There’s a 40% chance the Rockets leave Tuesday’s lottery with a top three pick, and while there will be excellent prospects remaining on the board after the third pick, including the Thompson twins, Houston’s Jarace Walker, and Arkansas’ Anthony Black, none are at the level of Wembamyama, Henderson, and Miller. Don’t be surprised if the Rockets look to trade the pick if it falls outside the top three.
No team has lost more the last three seasons than the Rockets. No team has been less relevant the last three years than the Rockets. No team has dealt with as many bad headlines over the last three years as the Rockets, and because they don’t control their first round picks in 2024, 2025, and 2026 due to the Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul trade, no team needs a stroke of luck quite like the Rockets.
It’s time to start praying.