Report: NBA teams salivating over prospect Wembanyama, prompting tanking fears

Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92's Victor Wembanyama, left, guards NBA G League Ignite's Scoot Henderson during the second half of an exhibition basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in Henderson, Nev. (John Locher/AP)

Seven-foot-four French prospect Victor Wembanyama has yet to play an NBA game, but he's already affecting the league, according to a story by ESPN.

Wembanyama put on an impressive performance — 37 points, seven three pointers, five blocks — for his Paris-based team, the Metropolitans 92, on Tuesday in a 122-115 exhibition defeat to the G League Ignite in Las Vegas, prompting many to suggest his agent should "shut him down," ahead of next summer's NBA's draft. But it's who might get to draft the 18-year-old that may have an impact on the league this season.

"Victor distorts basketball reality," ESPN quoted one GM on Wednesday. "The tank/trade market will really shift after that showing. It feels like last night will start a race to the bottom like we've never seen."

The ESPN story speculates that Wembanyama's draw will be "a factor in how aggressively teams might proceed in joining that race to the bottom of the standings."

The NBA play-in tournament, for example, has prompted teams to remain in the post-season pursuit longer in recent years. That could change with a Wembanyama up for grabs, with teams shedding players sooner, rather than keeping them or even acquiring more.

The odds of drafting first are just 14 per cent for the three worst teams, an adjustment the the league made in 2019 to combat tanking by teams, according to ESPN. The odds rise to 27 per cent for those teams getting either the first or second pick, which could motivate bad teams who see G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson — who put in a strong performance of his own against Wembanyama — as a worthwhile consolation prize.

Wembanyama and Henderson will both get another chance to set tongues wagging when their teams play on Thursday night in the second game of the two-game set.

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