The entire premise of this running feature was that teams were going to bend over backwards for the right to draft Victor Wembanyama. The bad teams were supposed to seek every possible disadvantage in their desperate attempts to land our protagonist, and the good teams were supposed to pile up easy victories as a result.
Uh, that's not what's happened. The Lakers and Nets have won as many combined games as the Thunder. And the Utah Jazz have the most wins in the NBA, and trailing them by a half-game in the standings are the upstart San Antonio Spurs. You know a season has gone topsy turvy when even the unflappable Miami Heat are below .500.
Forget everything you thought you knew about lottery shenanigans. We're in the bizarro world now. Up is down. Left is right. Russell Westbrook is even coming off of the bench. Maybe things will go back to normal eventually. For now, the race to the bottom is in a state of utter chaos. These teams might need a reminder of why it is they ought to be losing. Fortunately, Wemby provides.
Wembanyama goes nuclear in OT win
In the true spirit of Halloween week, Wembanyama in his one showing with Mets 92 this week had a scary good outing -- yes, again, surprise, surprise -- in a 95-91 win over Bourg-en-Bresse. He earned a season-high 37 minutes in the game, which went to overtime, and rewarded his team with one of his most complete outings to date, pouring in a double-double of 23 points and 10 boards while adding five blocks.
Wembanyama didn't make any of his three 3-point attempts in the win -- the first time he's been held without a made 3 -- but he made it up for it with an efficient 7-of-9 shooting performance from the field.
On the defensive end, Wembanyama's length and ability to affect shots was the difference in the game. Two of his blocks came in the overtime period, and one -- posted below -- was so good that he closed on the perimeter like a strong safety.
In an unprecedented move this week, the NBA announced that all of Wembanyama and Mets 92's games this season will be made available for free on the new NBA app throughout the LNB regular season and playoffs. The upcoming schedule is as follows below. The full streaming schedule is expected to be announced at a later date.
- Nov. 4 -- Limoges at Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Nov. 20 -- Nanterre at Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, 2 p.m. ET
- Nov. 26 -- Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 at Nancy, 3 p.m. ET
- Dec. 29 -- LNB All-Star Game
- Feb. 17-19 -- Leaders Cup Games
Wembanyama's next game at home will feature a showdown against Limoges CSP, which includes former Seton Hall star Desi Rodriguez. The game is slated for a 3:30 p.m. ET tipoff on Nov. 4.
Race to the Bottom
Each week, we'll rank the seven teams likeliest to earn the coveted No. 1 slot on lottery night. These rankings will take current record, recent performance, upcoming schedule and injuries into account to subjectively rank the NBA's worst teams.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Oh, you thought one measly victory was keeping the Lakers out of the bottom-seven? Please. It took a 43 percent shooting night from deep against the miserable Denver defense just to push their offensive rating into triple digits. Still, the 100.3 points per 100 possessions they've scored thus far this season ranks dead last in the NBA. They're 28th in rebounding percentage and 24th in free throw attempts as well, painting a grim picture of a team that can't make shots and fails to recover many of their misses or give themselves opportunities for easier looks at the line. Until a trade is made, expect the Lakers to get nice and cozy here in the bottom seven, which is good news for the New Orleans Pelicans, who own two of their next three first-round picks.
6. San Antonio Spurs: The Jazz have already graduated out of the bottom seven. Are the Spurs on their way to joining them? It's not yet clear. Smoke and mirrors seem to be behind San Antonio's 5-2 record. The Spurs have a negative point-differential. They're committing the second-most turnovers in basketball, but surviving by making 40.9 percent of their wide-open 3-pointers while allowing opponents to hit just 36.2 percent of theirs. A bit of regression should be expected on both fronts, which should flip some of their close results. The Spurs aren't going to win 70 percent of their games, but they probably aren't going to compete for the NBA's worst record either.
5. Indiana Pacers: What has become painfully clear thus far this season is that Indiana's second-best player is coming off of its bench. Benedict Mathurin—scoring an efficient 20.4 points per game—has not started once this season. Indiana has no reason to rush him into the starting five. Buddy Hield has played quite well there. But after an offseason filled with fears over how the presence of Hield and Myles Turner might force the Pacers to win too many games, it's somewhat ironic that Hield's presence is the only thing holding back the unstoppable Mathurin. If Indiana ever does make their long-rumored trade with the Lakers, it may make their roster worse as a whole, but it will also unleash one of the best rookie scorers we've seen in years.
4. Detroit Pistons: Last week, we wondered how long Cade Cunningham's slow start would last. In the four games he's played since, he's averaged 28 points on just under 50 percent shooting. On Saturday, he carved up the defending champion Warriors for perhaps the most impressive win of his career. So, yeah, it's safe to say that rumors of Cade's demise were greatly exaggerated. His teammates aren't doing him many favors -- and we'll get to one of them in a little bit -- but the Pistons have to be careful, because this version of Cunningham is going to catapult them right out of Wemby Watch.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Yes, yes, I know. The Thunder have won four games. They entered Tuesday's game against Orlando with the NBA's No. 7 defense. But this is how Oklahoma City's last several seasons have played out. They started last season 5-6, but went 19-54 from there. They were 17-22 on March 15, 2020, and limped to a 5-28 finish. History tells us not to think too hard about Oklahoma City's starts. They are master finishers when the time to start jockeying for draft position truly arrives.
2. Orlando Magic: Have you ever wondered what basketball would look like without all of the short people? The Orlando Magic certainly have. They're currently starting a lineup in which every player is at least 6-6. Four of their five starters—Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr. and Bol Bol—are 6-10 or taller. Our own , but for now, let's just say that it's very thoughtful of the Magic to create such a welcoming future environment for Wemby. Finally, a team where a 7-3 center can just blend in.
1. Houston Rockets: Ah, our beloved constant. Even as the entire league landscape has been flipped upside down, we can count on the Rockets to lose basketball games. They've had the NBA's worst record in each of the past two seasons and they have the NBA's fewest wins thus far this season, having won just a single game. They were the NBA's scariest team on Halloween when they managed to play an entire game in which none of their starters reached 15 points. No matter how much everyone else is improving, the Rockets provide sorely needed stability at the bottom of the standings.
Loss of the Week
It seems fitting that bizarro week nearly ended with the NBA's last undefeated team -- the 6-0 Milwaukee Bucks -- nearly blowing a 16-point home lead to, of all teams, the 2-6 Detroit Pistons. This is especially notable considering Detroit's less than stellar history with the Bucks. Entering Monday's game, Detroit was 1-13 against Bucks teams coached by Mike Budenholzer. Of course, they didn't have Jaden Ivey in any of the 14 previous matchups. And oh boy, did Ivey make a difference this time around. The Bucks thought their lead was secure at 16. Ivey had other ideas. He just kept attacking the basket.
It's a classic story. The wide-eyed rookie stares the best player in the world in the face and pushes him to the absolute brink. Of course, the Pistons wound up losing the game. The clips above only tell part of the story. What you don't see is Ivey missing every field goal he took outside of the paint during the comeback. Or the palming turnover he committed early in the fourth quarter. Or him giving Jrue Holiday the inch he needed on what turned out to be the game-winning 3-pointer.
None of this is meant to call out Ivey, who was by and large wonderful on Monday and has had a very strong start to his rookie season. He's as fast as Wembanyama is tall and more than crafty enough to score in traffic. Those clips should show you what a special player Ivey is going to be one day.
But the operative words are "one day" because, historically speaking, nothing greases the lottery wheels quite like young guards. Remember, last year's worst team (Houston) and the team that picked No. 1 overall (Orlando) both had rookie guards at the helm. The Pistons have Ivey in the first place thanks in part to Killian Hayes' dreadful shooting a season ago. Young guards are typically one-dimensional and mistake prone, and as bright as their flashes might be, their first few seasons are almost always littered with losses. The Pistons certainly aren't complaining. After all, they've got two studs in their backcourt, and they're not gonna be young for long.
Games of the Weak
Wednesday, Nov. 2 -- Pelicans at Lakers: New Orleans has to protect its investment. This is the most important regular-season game the Pelicans will play all year. The vibes have grown distressingly positive in Los Angeles now that Russell Westbrook has seemingly accepted his bench role and the Lakers have won a game. The Pelicans can't have that. They need to come into Los Angeles and crush the Lakers for the sake of their draft pick.
Saturday, Nov. 5 -- Kings at Magic: Were it not for their Saturday victory over the Miami Heat, the Sacramento Kings would've been in the bottom seven this week despite their desperate attempt at a play-in bid. Lose in Orlando and they'll be there next week.
Monday, Nov. 7 -- Rockets at Magic: Oh baby, here we go. The two worst teams in the NBA. The team that thought it was getting Paolo Banchero against the team that actually has him. The Wemby Watch Super Bowl has arrived.