NBA Draft Lottery aftermath: The biggest winners and losers

The Bulls were searching for lightning in a bottle in Tuesday’s lottery but instead will convey the No. 11 draft pick to the Magic as part of the Nikola Vucevic trade. The night wasn’t all bad for the Bulls, however.

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Victor Wembanyama

Victor Wembanyama is considered to be a generational talent, and the big man might have just landed in the perfect situation down in San Antonio.

Michel Euler/AP

There was definitely an empty feeling coming out of the offices of the Advocate Center after Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery.

While landing in the top four was a wing and a prayer to begin with, so was landing No. 1 and Derrick Rose back in 2008.

Lightning, however, didn’t strike twice.

As soon as the Orlando Magic card was flipped over in the 11th spot, hope ended for executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and the rest of the Bulls front office. Their top-four protected pick was conveyed to the Magic for the Nikola Vucevic trade, simultaneously drawing a chalk line around the dream that was generational prospect Victor Wembanyama.

And still the Bulls didn’t walk away the biggest losers of the night.

WINNERS AND LOSERS FROM DRAFT LOTTERY

WINNER: The Spurs and Wembanyama

Is the Gregg Popovich methodology outdated? It’s no secret that the Spurs coaching legend would love to see the frequency of the three-point shot just go away. But there is something to be said about what Popovich has done for elite bigs to land in his lap. David Robinson and Tim Duncan each went to Texas with a lot of hype, and each retired with championship rings.

The 7-foot-4 Wembanyama has untapped talent and will be coached hard by Popovich. If the French import is built for that then the Spurs could be set for another dynasty.

LOSER: The Pistons

Detroit’s loss is actually the Bulls’ gain. After losing former top pick Cade Cunningham for the 2022-23 season, the Pistons didn’t even try and hide the fact that they were all in on tanking for Wembanyama.

Posting the worst record in the league at 17-65, Detroit went into Tuesday evening tied for the best odds of winning the top pick.

What they received instead was falling down to No. 5.

The last thing the Bulls needed was another young up-and-coming team in the division landing a game-changer like Wembanyama. The Cavaliers have already surpassed the Bulls with their young core.

WINNER: Brandon Miller

The smooth-scoring Alabama forward was projected in the No. 3 spot of this draft most of the season, behind Wembanyama and point guard Scoot Henderson.

Miller, however, was closing ground on Henderson lately, and may have caught him thanks to the lottery. Charlotte nabbed No. 2 and already have an All-Star-caliber point guard in LaMelo Ball. What they need is a consistent wing scorer. Guess who fits that description?

They could always opt to take Henderson and play him off the ball, but roster construction hasn’t been the Hornets’ strong point for years, and it’s time to change that.

LOSER: The Rockets

Like Detroit, Houston was tied for the best odds to land No. 1, but found themselves at No. 4.

Not exactly ideal, considering there’s definitely a talent drop-off after Wembanyama, Miller, and Henderson come off the board.

Amen Thompson and Jarace Walker could both be looked at, but the Rockets continue collecting young talent without much impact in winning.

WINNER: Damian Lillard

The All-NBA guard has been looking for a reason to stay loyal to the Trail Blazers, and now may have found one.

Portland moved up two spots higher than expected in the lottery, hitting No. 3, which means Miller or Henderson will fall in their lap.

It also could allow them to help out the Bulls. In trading Josh Hart to New York, the Blazers acquired the 23rd pick overall, but owe the Bulls non-lottery draft compensation for the Lauri Markkanen three-team deal. The two front offices could negotiate that compensation coming this summer, moving the Bulls back into a draft asset. Stay tuned.

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