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Wemby Watch: The NBA Draft race for Victor Wembanyama is starting to take shape

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Remember just a few weeks ago when the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs sat atop the Western Conference while the Nets and 76ers languished below .500? Yeah, seems that was just a few early-season randomness. With greater than a month of basketball within the books, the NBA is finally starting to normalize. The Warriors have climbed to .500. The Jazz aren’t any longer the NBA’s best offense. Even the feel-good Sacramento Kings have lost three in a row.

This was largely predictable. Even when Victor Wembanyama wasn’t available, teams are rarely capable of sustain abnormal performance for greater than just a few weeks. So from here on out, expect the race for Wembanyama to focus on just a few teams that can spend the subsequent five months jockeying for position. We hope you want reading in regards to the Pistons and Rockets, because all the things they do from now until April likely will probably be defined by the way it impacts their lottery odds.

One other game, one other 30-burger

It’s becoming something of a routine for Wembanyama to go nuclear and lift his team into the win column, so in no surprise this past week, he did exactly that for Mets 92 of their game against SLUC Nancy Basket, going for 30 points, a season-high 15 rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks in a 92-78 win. Mets 92 improved to 8-1 on the season and prolonged its winning streak to eight heading into December.

Wembanyama has been pretty much as good — and possibly higher — than advertised for Mets 92 on the season. He now leads the league in scoring, rebounds and blocks and is impacting winning as well, along with his team sitting at first-place within the standings. 

Watching Wemby

Mets 92 will probably be back in motion on Dec. 2 with a showdown against Fos-sur-Mer and at Roanne on Dec. 6. These two games — the truth is, all of Wembanyama’s games this season — will probably be streamed free on the NBA app. 

  • Dec. 2 — Fos-sur-Mer, 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Dec. 6 — at Roanne, 2:00 p.m. ET

Fos-sur-Mer has a bunch of recognizable names from the school circuit including former Clemson standout Gabe DeVoe and ex-TCU standout Garlon Green, the younger brother of longtime NBA veteran Gerald Green, who leads the team in scoring on the season. Roanne rosters its own star power led by former Ole Miss star Stefan Moody and former Kansas standout Silvio De Sousa. 

Race to the underside

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 consideration to subjectively rank the NBA’s worst teams.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder: Earlier within the season, we covered OKC’s tendency to start out fast and finish slowly. It’s too early to say that is happening again this season, however the Thunder have now lost five of their past six and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, an early-season MVP candidate, has quietly shot below 41 percent from the sphere and 23 percent from 3-point range in that span. Six games shouldn’t be enough to attract any meaningful conclusions, but through nearly 1 / 4 of the season, the Thunder rank twenty second in 3-point percentage and dead last in defensive rebounding rate. Those are the numbers of a lottery team, not a play-in team.

6. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers might’ve escaped the underside seven with a win against the Pacers Monday night. But L.A. squandered a 17-point lead, and so here they’re. They’d won five of their previous six games, though three of those Ws were against the aforementioned Spurs and one other was against the aforementioned Pistons. Still, Anthony Davis is playing like an MVP, Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker are blossoming as high-end role players. After which… well… we’ll get to the Pacers game in a bit of bit. For now… Lakers gonna Laker. 

5. Charlotte Hornets: It’s genuinely amazing that the Lakers could have the one worst five-game shooting stretch in NBA history … and still not have the NBA’s worst offense by the tip of November. That honor belongs to the Hornets, scoring a putrid 105.9 points per 100 possessions. Granted, the absence of LaMelo Ball is basically chargeable for that dip. Charlotte has scored over 110 points per 100 possessions with him on the ground, but this can be a team paying Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward (who, you will be stunned to listen to, is injured) over $200 million on their total contracts combined. Asking for something higher than the worst offense in basketball feels reasonable.

4. Orlando Magic: The Magic have never played a boring game. They’ve lost 16 games, but 10 have been by single digits, and the blowouts have typically boiled all the way down to one horrific quarter, corresponding to Saturday’s 133-103 loss to Philadelphia, which was largely the results of a 31-13 second quarter. The Bol Bol train is leaving the station, as he’s averaged over 17 points per game over his past seven, and Paolo Banchero’s return to the lineup just gives them one other scoring giant. For those who insist on subjecting yourself to bad basketball, then do yourself a favor and watch the delightful Magic.

3. Detroit Pistons: Two weeks ago, we used this space to mock Killian Hayes’ offense. Well, in his past seven games, he’s shooting 43.5 percent from deep while averaging over seven assists per game. The Pistons are 2-5 in that stretch, and with Cade Cunningham injured, they cannot ask for a lot better, but progress is progress. 

2. Houston Rockets / 1. San Antonio Spurs: We now have a recent leader within the clubhouse! Houston’s regular incompetence has given it the sting for many of the season, however the Spurs have been coming on like … what’s the other of a freight train? A late train? It is a lazy rhyme but an appropriate one for a Spurs team that pretended to be decent for just a few weeks only to fall off of the face of the Earth over the past few weeks. The Spurs have lost 13 of their past 14 games. Their minus-10 net rating is 2.4 points per 100 possessions worse than another team’s. Only two Spurs are averaging even 13 points per game in that stretch. This can be a masterclass. The Rockets are the old stalwart, but immediately, there may be simply no doubt that the Spurs are the worst team within the NBA.

Lack of the week

The Lakers entered Monday’s game against Indiana with an insane 347-0 record when leading by 17 or more points within the fourth quarter over the past 20 seasons. With 9:59 remaining within the fourth quarter, the Lakers led 101-84. Checkmate. Game over. Let’s move on to Games of the We–

What?

You are kidding. Come on that is serious, you possibly can’t …

Oh. Oh no. In lower than 10 minutes, the Lakers were outscored 32-14 at home against a team playing the second night of a back-to-back to lose 116-115 to a Pacers team so desirous to throw its hat into the Wembanyama ring that it spent the offseason attempting to trade its second- and third-best players to those very Lakers. To most teams, it will rank as perhaps essentially the most embarrassing regular-season loss in regular-season history. To a Lakers team that blew a 26-point result in the lowly Thunder roughly a yr ago, it was just Monday.

So how does a team blow a 17-point fourth-quarter lead at home? It starts with poor communication. The Lakers allowed six 3-pointers in the ultimate 10 minutes. Just about all of them boiled all the way down to defensive miscues. You possibly can see the frustration on Anthony Davis’ face as he points out a wide-open Myles Turner and no person goes to contest him.

This transition jumper is just as frustrating. Each Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder follow Buddy Hield, leaving Andrew Nembhard wide open for a 3-pointer of his own.

In fact, it’s fair to ask why Westbrook and Schroder were even on the ground together in the primary place. While the Lakers don’t exactly have the kind of complementary role players that will allow for sensible closing lineups, Westbrook and Schroder’s playing styles clash aggressively. Neither can shoot. Each need the ball to be effective. Yet for a stretch of the fourth quarter, the 2 played with Davis and LeBron James with Troy Brown Jr., a 32.7 percent 3-point shooter this season, occupying the fifth slot on the ground. Lonnie Walker IV, arguably the third-best Laker this season and a 36.3 percent 3-point shooter on the yr, didn’t play in the ultimate five minutes. 

In that sense, this was an organizational loss. Rob Pelinka constructed a roster with so little spacing that 14 points in 10 minutes was possible. Darvin Ham misused what little talent he did have down the stretch. The players did not adequately communicate on the ground. The result? Well, you have surely seen it by now.

The Lakers managed to grab a twelfth defeat from the jaws of victory. Now they’re about to embark upon arguably the toughest stretch of their entire schedule. Of their next 18 games, 13 are on the road. Just about all of them come against teams at or above .500. The Lakers simply aren’t ok to provide away games like this. If their season falls apart in the subsequent month, they are going to look back at this game as the beginning of all of it.

Games of the weak

Wednesday, Nov. 30: Spurs at Thunder: There is a full circle theme here. San Antonio’s dynasty began when it earned the No. 1 pick within the 1997 NBA Draft and took Tim Duncan. Sam Presti got here from that San Antonio front office and is widely credited with the invention of Tony Parker. He went to the Seattle SuperSonics, where the lottery gods granted him Kevin Durant, before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City. Now, for possibly the primary time since he left San Antonio, Presti is directly competing with the Spurs for draft position. 

Wednesday, Nov. 30: Blazers at Lakers: The Lakers folded a yr ago after they blew that 26-point result in Oklahoma City. If they cannot beat the Blazers at home without Damian Lillard on Wednesday, we’ll know they’re about to do the identical this season. Looks like a straightforward win, right? Well remember, the Lakers played the Blazers without Lillard the night before last season’s trade deadline. They lost by nine to a team giving serious minutes to CJ Elleby and Greg Brown III. The Lakers are entirely able to collapsing on Wednesday. In the event that they do? Go make whatever season-long win total bets yow will discover, since it means they’re done. 

Sunday. Dec. 4: Bulls at Kings: Neither team here is in the underside seven, but we’re watching each of them very closely. The Kings have lost three in a row, and even after they were winning, their defense was a disaster. The Bulls are below .500 and have every incentive to sneak into the underside 4 with a veteran trade or two as doing so is the one way they will keep their first-round pick reasonably than sending it to Orlando. 

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