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Some of the notable losers in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes may already be looking to trade down in the 2023 NBA draft, according to NBA insider Marc Stein.
Stein reported there’s a widespread belief teams in the top five are prioritizing short-term upgrades over what they’d add by staying put:
“Pretty much every team above the Pacers that didn’t win the right to draft Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick like San Antonio is already being mentioned as a candidate to shop its upper-echelon pick for win-now considerations. No. 2 Charlotte, No. 3 Portland, No. 4 Houston, No. 5 Detroit — all of those teams are generating such chatter before we make it out of May
It’s not surprising to see the Blazers and Rockets exploring the trade market for veteran reinforcements. Portland is continuing in its attempt to build a championship-caliber squad around Damian Lillard. Houston’s rumored pursuit of James Harden, meanwhile, speaks to the team’s offseason ambitions.
The Hornets are a somewhat more unexpected inclusion because they went 27-55 this past year. The 43-win season they enjoyed in 2021-22 might have been a bit of an aberration because LaMelo Ball missing half the campaign isn’t the only reason they cratered so badly.
Not to mention, the ongoing ownership saga would seemingly point to a more conservative approach toward the draft. If team governor Michael Jordan is looking to get out or lessen his involvement, then how strong is his appetite to win now?
The Pistons are in a similar boat to Charlotte, albeit with an even longer road to respectability ahead. Detroit’s 17 wins were the second-fewest in franchise history, and fans couldn’t even comfort themselves by watching Cade Cunningham and pondering what might come next. The 2021 No. 1 overall pick was limited to 12 games due to a stress fracture in his left leg.
A win-now trade is arguably of somewhat limited value to the Pistons when they can use the No. 5 pick to find a suitable young star to pair with Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.