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Houston Rockets vs. Detroit Pistons game preview

NBA: Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s contest between the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons pits the two worst teams in the NBA against each other.

For years, I’ve done a “If the NBA Draft Lottery is rigged, who would the NBA want to win it?” And today feels like the perfect time to bring it back. Let’s discuss the non-Houston candidates.

  • Detroit: The worst team could be incredibly exciting with Cade Cunningham and Victor Wembanyama running the show, but since when has the lottery cared about which team had the worst record (snarls in Rockets 2021 and 2022 odds)?
  • San Antonio: This feels like the easy pick. Pairing Gregg Poppovich with another young superstar could create a second (third?) era of dominance for the San Antonio Spurs. The only fear is how long it might take the Spurs to return to contention.
  • Charlotte: Hornets fans need something to get excited about. The team is “mid,” as the kids say. And soon they might not even have Michael Jordan as an owner. What is there to drive ticket sales if he sells? Do you think people will want to spend their hand-earned money watching LaMelo Ball? Nope. No team, including Houston, needs Wembanyama like the Hornets need him. This is also one of the only places where he’d be “The Guy” the second he walked into the building. There are some places where he’s come in as a second fiddle (at first, obviously). Speaking of…
  • Portland: This would be perfect in many ways. It would allow Damian Lillard to pass the torch of the Pacific Northwest to Wemby. Those two could make a couple of nice playoff runs for a few years, and then Dame could get traded/walk in free agency in order to give him a final chance at a ring without upsetting the fans. The narrative would be that he left to give Wemby a chance to lead the team into their next era. Something like “He hated to leave, but he loved Portland so much that he had to get out of Wemby’s way.” Or something stupid like that. This is a strong contender.
  • Orlando: If Wembanyama gets drafted here, he will demand a trade to the Lakers five years later. Sorry I don’t make the rules. He’d be fun next to Paolo Banchero and might open up opportunities for Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs (gotta mention a Zag) to get to the next level.
  • Indiana: This could be a really fun team. Rick Carlisle is a good coach even if he does look like Jim Carrey. Andrew Nembhard (gotta mention a Zag) has had a solid rookie season, and having Wemby and Myles Turner unlocks a lot for both players. Tyrese Haliburton and Benedict Mathurin can keep developing, but they might have the issue of too many players who need the ball. They could keep the entire core together for a year and then move on from Turner next summer.
  • Washington: This is similar to Portland, except people don’t love Bradley Beal as much as they love Lillard. Kuzma could teach Wemby some fashion tips and that could be fun I guess?
  • Chicago: Big market gets them into the conversation. Otherwise, it makes little sense. This is a team that doesn’t know its own identity moving forward, though I’d love if they re-signed Patrick Beverley and he and Wemby did cool stuff on the court together.
  • Utah: They’ve already ruined the peak of a French center. Their fans would become even more unbearable. No thank you.
  • Dallas: The darkest timeline. But also, an absolute slam dunk for the NBA. Luka Doncic and Wembanyama for the next ten years is terrifying.
  • Oklahoma City: They already have a Victor Wembanyama. His name is Chet Holmgren. The two of them together could give the Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon Twin Towers thing a run for its money. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gives them a star to play with along with Josh Giddey. Again, you’re starting to get into the problem of too any players that need the ball.

Here are my top 3:

1 Portland

2 Charlotte

3 San Antonio

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest