Wemby Watch: Victor Wembanyama leads team to another victory as NBA franchises jockey for draft positioning

We need to start this week’s edition of Wemby Watch in Indianapolis, where it appears as though the wrong team is making a bid for Victor Wembanyama. We came into the year expecting the Pacers to lose their way into the running, but through 10 games, they’ve managed a .500 record that will keep them out of this week’s race to the bottom. Myles Turner, who scored 37 points in an upset win over the Pelicans Monday, is openly pitching himself to the Lakers on podcasts… yet the Pacers just keep humming along, lowering their Wemby odds with each passing win.

So we’re compelled to ask… are the Colts trying to pick up their slack in the losing department? On Monday, they fired former third-place Coach of the Year finisher Frank Reich and replaced him with Jeff Saturday, a former Pro Bowler with no coaching experience beyond the high school level. If Wembanyama makes a surprise heel turn and announces plans to play wide receiver at the pro level, this could turn out to be a genius move. Until then, the Colts have set a standard that every team on Wemby Watch will struggle to meet. If the Pacers aren’t careful, they might not even have the best odds at the top pick in their own state.

Another week, another highlight in a win

Wembanyama and his Mets 92 team improved to 6-1 on the season with a 78-69 win over Limoges, and as is becoming a weekly staple on the Wemby Watch, he again showed off a ridiculous weaponry of offensive and defensive firepower. Wembanyama accounted for 33 of his team’s 78 points — his season-high by a comfortable margin — and did so on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting from 2-point range. He drained three of his eight 3-point attempts, the most attempts in a game this season and the most makes for him this season, and he somehow, someway, made one of the most absurd one-legged 3s you’ll ever see on a basketball court to boot.

For good measure, Wembanyama notched a season-high 12 rebounds and added four assists and three blocks in the win.

Watching Wemby

With Wembanyama’s talents in high demand, he is expected to make his debut for the French senior national team in a pair of FIBA World Cup qualifying games later this month — first against Lithuania on Nov. 11 then against Bosnia on Nov. 14. Mets 92’s brief break in the schedule for two weeks will allow him to face even greater competition in a new environment, this after he has proven one of the most valuable assets for its FIBA U19 team a year ago. His upcoming schedule is as follows.

  • Nov. 11 — France vs. Lithuania in FIBA qualifier, 2:30 p.m. ET, streaming link (must have subscription)
  • Nov. 14 — France vs. Bosnia in FIBA qualifier, 4:30 p.m. ET, streaming link (must have subscription)
  • 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

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. San Antonio Spurs: The Jazz and Pacers have graduated out of the bottom seven, and the Spurs were well on their way to doing so before a four-game losing streak nudged them back into the hunt. That streak includes a 43-point loss to the Raptors and a 25-point loss to the Nuggets. The Sacramento Kings are hot on their trail despite their best efforts, but for now, the NBA’s worst defense is keeping the Spurs at No. 7.

6. Charlotte Hornets: It’s now been just under a month since LaMelo Ball suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain. We’ve heard next to nothing about his recovery. The Hornets have lost five games in a row and now sit comfortably in the thick of Wemby Watch with a 3-8 record. Ball is eventually going to return, but the Hornets have no reason to rush him back. 

5. Los Angeles Lakers: Were it not for a miracle 3-pointer from a former DoorDash driver, the Lakers would be 1-9 right now. They’ve allowed a combined 269 points in two losses to a Jazz team that actively attempted to trade them their best players this offseason. LeBron James just missed his first game of the season due to foot soreness, and if this doesn’t pick up, he’s gonna start missing more games due to soul soreness. The Lakers are trying to win and they’re losing more than the teams that are trying to lose. Just trade for Turner and Buddy Hield you cowards.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Remember last week, when we covered Oklahoma City’s propensity for quick starts followed by drastic crashes? The Thunder haven’t won since, and their next four games are against the Bucks, Raptors, Knicks and Celtics. Welcome back to the party, Oklahoma City. It’s like you never left!

3. Detroit Pistons: They may not have the NBA’s worst record, but the Pistons do own the league’s worst net rating. They’ve been outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions thus far this season, and their eight losses have come by a combined 134 points. Net rating is more predictive of future performance than record, so don’t be surprised if the Pistons gain some ground on the Rockets and Magic in the loss column in the coming weeks.

2. Houston Rockets: The Rockets and Magic played on Monday with the No. 1 ranking on the line. Orlando stepped up and lost, securing a 2-9 tie with Houston for the NBA’s worst record and a tiebreaker in our unofficial rankings for the No. 1 spot.

1. Orlando Magic: Here’s all you need to know about Orlando’s week: the Magic gave up over 70 points in a half to the Rockets, and in a separate game, allowed the Kings to outscore them 36-12 in a quarter. Neither was their worst loss of the week, which we’ll cover shortly.

Loss of the Week

With 7:26 remaining in last Tuesday’s game between the Thunder and Magic, Wendell Carter Jr. nailed a 3-pointer to put Orlando up by a score of 104-93. Their lead had been as big as 15, and with so little time remaining, the Magic were only a few buckets away from securing what would have been their second victory of the season. They just couldn’t find those buckets. They lost 116-108.

That’s right, Magic fans. Your team scored four points in seven minutes and 26 seconds. More impressively, they failed to make a single field goal in that time. Do you realize how difficult it is to go seven and a half minutes without making a shot from the field? Even famous NBA Draft bust Michael Olowakandi managed to average one field per 7.34 minutes of playing time for his career. The Magic weren’t just bad offensively down the stretch of this game. They were sub-Olowakandi bad. The end of the fourth quarter for Orlando was a symphony of bad offense. You’ve got your airballs…

And your failed inbounds passes…

And yes, in one critical possession, they even got Poku’d.

The funny thing is, Orlando’s actual offensive process wasn’t terrible. Yes, the Magic lack a traditional late-game shot-creator, so the bulk of those responsibilities fell to Franz Wagner. But their shots were largely either relatively open 3s or attempts at attacking the basket. They just weren’t going in, and Orlando’s young players are so unused to the stress of crunchtime that they simply lacked the tools to generate the sort of easy points you need to close out games. This problem wasn’t limited to just one loss. Orlando ranked 25th in clutch offense last season and is ranked 25th again thus far this season.

That’s not going to last forever. Young players learn from these reps. But in the grand scheme of Wemby Watch, this might go down as the single most important seven-minute stretch of the season. If Orlando had finished this win, the Magic and Thunder would be tied in the win column right now. Instead, the Thunder have twice as many victories (four to two). If the race is tight at the end of the season, that two-game cushion could prove essential to Orlando, and there’s a not-insignificant chance that it’s the difference between having the worst record in the NBA and not. Rarely does a game between two bad teams live up to the anti-hype, but boy, did this one deliver.

Games of the Weak

Friday, Nov. 11: Pistons at Knicks: New York probably isn’t making it into the top seven without major injuries, but we’re keeping an eye on them. They haven’t beaten a single team with a record above .500 yet. The reverse is that their five losses have come to five good teams. In other words… we might not know much about the Knicks yet. So let’s keep an eye out.

Sunday, Nov. 13: Nets at Lakers: Welcome to the Chaos Bowl. This is technically the first game Kyrie Irving will be eligible to play if he fulfills the requirements of his suspension, though it is possible that he will not have done so by Sunday. It’s unclear which of these teams has been more disappointing, so watching them settle the debate this weekend should be a blast for the league’s 28 other fanbases. 

Monday, Nov. 14: Hornets at Magic: Ah, the classic stoppable force (Charlotte’s No. 28-ranked offense) meets the movable object (Orlando’s No. 25-ranked defense). What more could you ask for?

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