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Spurs win NBA draft lottery and right to select Victor Wembanyama

Spurs win NBA draft lottery and right to select Victor Wembanyama

CHICAGO — In the NBA’s most anticipated lottery drawing of the past 20 years, the San Antonio Spurs emerged as the winner of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes Tuesday by earning the right to select first in the June 22 draft.

Wembanyama, 19, is the most acclaimed teenage basketball prospect since LeBron James, thanks to his 7-foot-4 height, well-rounded game and polished off-court personality. The French center, who spent this season starting for Metropolitans 92 in France’s top professional league, wowed NBA executives, scouts and players during a pair of exhibition games outside Las Vegas in October. After the two showcases against the NBA’s G League Ignite developmental team, James hailed Wembanyama as an “alien” and talent evaluators compared him to a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

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“I feel like I deserve it so I’m not going to be surprised by all this attention,” Wembanyama said in October. “If I was amazed by all this, that would mean I’m satisfied with it. I’m not. I want to get better every day. The state I’m at right now is not enough.”

Wembanyama resisted suggestions that he should sit out this season to avoid injury, leading Metropolitans 92 to a spot near the top of the LNB Pro A league standings while averaging 21.6 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. Along the way, Wembanyama’s viral highlights have dominated social media — including one clip of him following up his own missed three-pointer by rushing in to dunk the offensive rebound in one quick motion.

Wembanyama has captivated the basketball universe due to his height, his 8-foot wingspan and because he seemingly represents a perfect fit for the modern NBA on both sides of the floor. Offensively, Wembanyama handles the ball and shoots three-pointers a la Kevin Durant, though he is also an excellent lob finisher. On the defensive end, Wembanyama is a natural rim-protector whose length and versatility allows him to effectively defend in space.

The biggest concerns facing Wembanyama are his thin frame and potential for injury. Listed at 230 pounds, Wembanyama can struggle defending stronger players capable of getting into his chest. Before his games with Metropolitans 92, Wembanyama goes through a complex series of stretching exercises and other drills designed to strengthen his size 20.5 feet and protect against lower body injuries.

Wembanyama has spent little time in the United States, but he speaks fluent English and is expected to command significant interest from the major sneaker companies and other major sponsors. He didn’t attend Tuesday’s lottery drawing because he was in France leading the Metropolitans 92 to a 93-85 victory over Paris Basketball.

“It’s been a goal of mine [to play in the NBA] for a lot of years,” Wembanyama said. “It’s going to be tough to leave some of my family back in Europe and pretty much everything I know, but my future is there on this [American] soil.”

Here’s the results of the NBA draft lottery:

3. Portland Trail Blazers

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

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