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Trail Blazers have 10.5% chance at No. 1 pick, opportunity to draft Victor Wembanyama

If Portland lands the top pick, they'll get a generational talent in Wembanyama. If not, they may trade the pick for a star to pair with Damian Lillard.
Credit: Michael Euler, AP Photo
NBA prospect Victor Wembanyama

PORTLAND, Ore. — One respected NBA pundit calls him "the NBA's greatest prospect in decades." Most league experts, from front office executives to players to established media figures, agree he's the most impressive player to come into the league since LeBron James.

Perched at the top of this year's NBA draft class is Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-4 phenom out of France. His presence in the draft pool has made today's NBA draft lottery must-see TV for fans of several NBA teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, who hope their team's bad performance during the regular season transforms into good luck at today's lottery drawing.

  • HOW TO WATCH: The draft lottery airs on ESPN. Coverage starts at 5 p.m.

Portland has a 10.5% chance of landing the No. 1 pick, fifth best among the 14 lottery teams. Here's a look at those odds:

  • Detroit Pistons 14%
  • Houston Rockets 14%
  • San Antonio Spurs 14%
  • Charlotte Hornets 12.5%
  • Portland Trail Blazers 10.5%
  • Orlando Magic 9.0%
  • Indiana Pacers 6.8%
  • Washington Wizards 6.7%
  • Utah Jazz 4.5%
  • Dallas Mavericks3.0%
  • Orlando Magic (via Chicago Bulls) 1.8%
  • Oklahoma City Thunder 1.7%
  • Toronto Raptors 1.0%
  • New Orleans Pelicans 0.5%

If Portland is fortunate enough to land the top pick, they'll land a generational talent who could shape the direction of the franchise for the next half-decade and hopefully longer. Wembanyama's talent would potentially open a long-term championship window for the team. His presence would put the Blazers at the front of NBA discourse.

"I've never seen — no one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor," said LeBron James of Wembanyama. "His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers out of the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots ... he's for sure a generational talent."

What if the Blazers don't get the No. 1 pick?

As enticing as the chance to draft Wembanyama is, it's important to note that landing the top pick is not the most likely scenario for Portland. In fact, the team is more likely to drop to sixth or seventh. The lottery and its possibilities are exciting, but it's also a common conduit for disappointment. Here's a look at Portland’s chances of landing each pick in the draft.

  • No. 1 pick: 10.5%
  • No. 2 pick: 10.5%
  • No. 3 pick: 10.6%
  • No. 4 pick: 10.5%
  • No. 5 pick: 2.2%
  • No. 6 pick: 19.6%
  • No. 7 pick: 26.7%
  • No. 8 pick: 8.7%
  • No. 9 pick: 0.6%
  • Picks 10-14: 0%

Because Portland finished with the fifth-worst record this past season, the Blazers do have a good chance — 42.1% — of moving up into the Top 4. But Portland also has a 46.3% chance of falling to the sixth or seventh pick. Their most likely scenario, at 26.7%, is dropping two spots to No. 7.

If Portland lands the No. 1 pick, they'll draft Wembanyama. No team will pass on a generational talent like that. But if the pick falls anywhere from No. 2 to No. 9, the Blazers seem more likely to trade the pick as the front office tries to meet Damian Lillard's repeated requests for a roster that can compete at the highest level.

Lillard has said he wants veterans. During exit interviews, he lauded rookie Shaedon Sharpe, the seventh-overall pick in last year's draft, but then added, "that’s enough 19-year-olds."

"If the route is to [draft youth], then that's not my route," he said.

He wants more star talent on the roster and more veteran depth. Portland hasn't made the playoffs for the past two years and Lillard has made it clear that he expects that to change if he's going to remain in Portland.

There will be good players available no matter where Portland's pick lands. If they move up and get the second or third pick, prospects like G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson and Alabama forward Brandon Miller would fetch a lot in a trade. In most drafts, Henderson would be a No. 1 pick.

If Portland ends up with a pick between No. 4 and No. 9, the Blazers could pair that selection with other picks and a good, young player like Anfernee Simons to build an attractive trade package. The Blazers could add Sharpe to a trade package, too, if an MVP-level talent makes it onto the trade block.

This is a pivotal summer for the Blazers. Maybe Portland lucks into the No. 1 pick and sets itself up to contend for years with Wembanyama. Maybe the Blazers don't get the top pick but are able to trade their lottery selection and other pieces for a star to pair with Lillard.

Or maybe they come up short. Maybe luck doesn't shine on Portland in the draft lottery. Maybe they try but can't make the big trade happen. If that happens, it will likely lead to a serious discussion between the team and Lillard about his future in Portland.

It all starts Tuesday night with the draft lottery.

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