Team executives, scouts, coaches, general managers and others from around the NBA made their yearly expedition to Chicago this past week to not only attend the NBA Draft Combine, but to see who would be awarded the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. This year’s NBA Draft Lottery was the most anticipated draft lottery ever, as the grand prize is quite possibly the best draft prospect ever in Victor Wembanyama. The San Antonio Spurs came out victorious on Tuesday night, ushering in a new era for one of the league’s most historic franchises. Wembanyama will officially be heading to San Antonio on June 22, the night of this year’s draft, and his presence is exactly what this franchise needs in the midst of their rebuild. 

The trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili brought five titles to San Antonio as the Spurs were a juggernaut in the NBA for over two decades. However, this franchise quickly began to spiral downhill when their three legends retired and after All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors in 2019. The Spurs made the playoffs for 22 consecutive years from 1998-2019 and had never failed to miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since they became an official NBA franchise in 1967 as the Dallas Chaparrals. They have now missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons after finishing the 2022-23 season with a 22-60 record, their fewest amount of wins since they won just 20 games during the 1996-97 season.

Wembanyama presents hope and presents a path to success once again for the Spurs. This is the moment the Spurs have been waiting for over the years, as they will have a very talented, youthful roster headlined by the French superstar. Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Malaki Branham are all recent first-round picks who make up their young core, while Tre Jones has turned into a very solid option at the point guard position for this team. There is obviously work to be done by Spurs CEO R.C. Buford and general manager Brian Wright, but the organization’s future is looking extremely bright with Wembanyama being their centerpiece for years to come. 

This year’s draft does not necessarily start, though, when Wembanyama goes first overall to the Spurs, as that is a given at this point. The Charlotte Hornets vaulted into the top three of this year’s draft during the lottery and own the second overall pick. A big decision now awaits pertaining to the two other top prospects in this year’s draft class in Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller. Henderson’s talents speak for themselves, and he would likely be the first overall selection in any other draft.

However, he may not even be the second overall pick this year if the Hornets remain in this spot, as league sources have told ClutchPoints that Charlotte is more likely to select Miller at this time. A 6-foot-9 forward who displayed his full arsenal of talent on the offensive end of the floor in college, Miller would be the ideal fit for the Hornets on the wing alongside All-Star guard LaMelo Ball.

In this scenario, the Portland Trail Blazers would then face the biggest decision with Henderson still being available with the third overall pick. ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently wrote that there is a belief around the NBA that Portland will explore trade opportunities with the third pick in order to improve their roster around superstar Damian Lillard.

Keeping this selection may not be the worst situation for the Blazers, though, given the limited All-Star talent set to be available this offseason. Not to mention, every team will face new challenges arising with the salary cap and potential financial penalties amid the new collective bargaining agreement. Henderson is a possibility for the Trail Blazers in this spot should they hold onto the pick, as are Amen and Ausar Thompson from Overtime Elite and Cam Whitmore from Villanova. 

If the Blazers explore trade options heading toward the draft, this third overall pick will be extremely valuable for several teams. The uncertainty the Toronto Raptors face entering the offseason with both Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet possibly leaving in free agency could make Henderson a logical player to target and pair with former Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes. Portland has shown interest in O.G. Anunoby in the past, while former All-Star Pascal Siakam would obviously be a player they would be interested in pairing with Lillard. Whether or not Toronto would be willing to offer either player in a package for the third overall pick is unknown at this time, as the Raptors are still of the belief that they can compete in the Eastern Conference at full-strength. 

The Chicago Bulls are another team to keep track of heading toward the draft with Lonzo Ball’s health remaining a major question mark looming large over the organization. DeMar DeRozan’s future in Chicago has been discussed a lot throughout the league since Chicago failed to make the playoffs. Entering the final year of his contract, teams are expected to inquire about the six-time All-Star’s availability. A package revolving around DeRozan for the third overall pick may move the needle for GM Joe Cronin and Portland’s front office, especially if he would be willing to commit to Lillard and the Blazers.

With DeRozan having one more year left on his contract and with Nikola Vucevic set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason after not receiving an extension, changes are inevitable for the Bulls. Frustrations setting in for Zach LaVine have been heavily noted as well through the years and potentially moving him in a trade could return the most assets to Chicago. LaVine is set to make $178 million over the next four seasons after signing a max contract in 2022. With the league’s new financial restrictions coming into play, any team wanting to target the two-time All-Star will have trouble doing so. 

Latest on Warriors, Bob Myers

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Aside from Wembanyama improving the Spurs’s championship outlook moving forward, all eyes in the Western Conference continue to be on the Golden State Warriors and what will happen with president of basketball operations Bob Myers. With his contract set to expire in July and the two sides unable to agree on an extension during the season, sources say there is “genuine concern” within the organization that Myers is preparing to leave. Myers has been the brain behind the Warriors’ championship success through the years and holds strong relationships with the team’s core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and head coach Steve Kerr. 

As Shams Charania and Anthony Slater from The Athletic noted recently, the Warriors executive is expected to announce his decision in the coming weeks. Myers has received “significant” interest from other professional sports leagues and for positions with private equity funds. Sources also informed ClutchPoints recently that the Los Angeles Clippers have internally discussed scenarios in regards to making a run at Myers this offseason. There is still a chance that the sides come to a new agreement, but if Myers does in fact leave Golden State in the offseason, league sources close to the team say vice president of basketball operations Mike Dunleavy Jr. would immediately assume the head role in the front office. 

With Green owning a player option that he could very well decline this offseason, Thompson being up for an extension and Kerr having one more year left on his contract, plus the elephant in the room being their payroll exceeding $200 million for the 2023-24 season, this offseason will be critical to the championship future of the Warriors. 

Bucks’ challenges entering offseason

The Warriors are not the only recent champions to face major decisions in the offseason, as the Milwaukee Bucks also have a lot to sort out. Mike Budenholzer’s dismissal as the head coach of the franchise came as a shock to many around the NBA, including Kerr, who commented on Milwaukee making this change earlier this month. 

“Bud is a fantastic coach, and as you said, just won a championship, and has been wildly successful in his coaching career,” Kerr said. “This is the business we’re in. … Expectations every year for every team are so high, and only one team can win. It’s sad news for the coaching profession. We all believe Bud deserved a lot better, but we also, as I said, are aware that this is the job we chose and we’re all vulnerable.”

The Bucks are expected to take their time and evaluate all of their options as they look for a new head coach. Two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to have a voice in who the team chooses as their next coach, sources say. Former Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams remains a lead candidate for the position, as Trail Blazers assistant Scott Brooks, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, Miami Heat assistant Chris Quinn, University of Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson and Milwaukee’s own Charles Lee are among those who have interviewed with the team, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

The state of this franchise and their ability to fight for another title will never be questioned as long as Antetokounmpo remains in Milwaukee. However, the roster faces uncertainties with Brook Lopez entering free agency and Khris Middleton owning a player option for next season. Lopez, 35, is coming off of a career year in which he shot a career-high 37.4 percent from three-point range and averaged a career-high 2.5 blocks per game. The Bucks center finished first in the league this season in total blocked shots and second in the voting for the 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year Award. 

Middleton owns a $40.3 million player option for the 2023-24 season, but the three-time All-Star is leaning toward opting out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent, league sources say. In the event he does not pick up his option for next season, the Bucks can offer Middleton a five-year, $272 million deal, whereas other teams could only offer him four years and just under $202 million. He is still eligible to sign an extension worth upwards of $220 million on top of his option for next season through June 30. 

More NBA notes and news:

  • Leonard Miller, a 6’10” wing with a 7’2” measured wingspan, entered the NBA Draft Combine this week as a projected first-round pick from the G League Ignite. Two scouts in attendance at the combine who spoke with ClutchPoints this week noted that Miller’s value has only increased at the combine and multiple teams were impressed with what they saw during his shooting drills. Miller was a late scratch from the scrimmages and is currently projected to go 12th overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder in ClutchPoints' 2023 NBA Mock Draft 1.0
  • Arkansas freshman Jordan Walsh and Connecticut junior Andre Jackson Jr. are both leaning toward remaining in the 2023 NBA Draft despite still owning college eligibility. Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill also recently reported on Walsh’s mindset of remaining in the draft after his strong showing at the combine. 
  • Mutual interest exists between the Los Angeles Clippers and Russell Westbrook on a new contract entering the offseason, sources say. Westbrook averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game in 21 regular-season games with the Clippers. The nine-time All-Star does not have much desire to play anywhere else other than in Los Angeles.
  • The New York Knicks own a $15.6 million team option on Derrick Rose’s contract for next season that they are expected to decline. However, the Knicks would like to keep Rose on a more team-friendly contract, as his mentorship and leadership in the locker room has been extremely valuable to the team’s overall success. 
  • The Dallas Mavericks will be looking to improve their roster around Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving this offseason, which is why many around the league believe Deandre Ayton could be a prime trade target for Dallas should Phoenix look to part ways with the former first overall pick.