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Can any team trade up for the No. 1 pick in 2023 NBA Draft? Would Spurs make a deal?

Would San Antonio pass on Victor Wembanyama?

2023 NBA Draft Lottery
Managing Partner Peter J. Holt of the San Antonio Spurs accepts the 1st Pick of the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery at McCormick Place on May 16, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs won the NBA lottery Tuesday in Chicago, giving them the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. That likely means the Spurs will take Victor Wembanyama, the 7-5 star from France who is being hailed as the best NBA prospect since LeBron James. San Antonio has been rebuilding for a few seasons now in the hopes of landing a franchise player, and Wembanyama fits the bill.

However, several other teams are likely to be looking at Wembanyama as the missing piece for them. Would they be able to trade up for the No. 1 pick in the draft? The Spurs are almost certainly not going to entertain any offers. The fear of missing out on what could be the greatest player of all time is enough to give San Antonio pause on even the biggest of trade hauls. So while this realistically is not a possibility, let’s take a look at some teams who could potentially have the juice to at least keep San Antonio on the phone for longer than a few seconds.

Oklahoma City Thunder

How many first-round picks would it take for even the most optimistic Wembanyama fans to give him up? The Spurs might find out, courtesy of Oklahoma City. The Thunder have two picks in this draft, three potential picks in 2024, three potential picks in 2025 and three potential picks in 2026. They’ll be able to deal those picks since they have control, but the final position and transfer years of some selections will be unknown.

The Thunder can also offer any combination of young players, although they’re going to draw a clear line at Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren, Jalen Williams and Lu Dort are all on the block. Of course there’s some risk in putting all your eggs in the Wembanyama basket, but that risk goes both ways. In terms of pure asset to asset comparisons, the Thunder have the most juice to make an offer. That doesn’t mean they’ll blow up everything they’ve built so far, even if Wembanyama appears to be the real deal.

Orlando Magic

The Magic would likely be willing to part with Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. in any Wembanyama deal, which is a better tandem than anyone Oklahoma City or Charlotte would give up. Orlando has two first-round picks in the lottery this year, as well as a full set of future first-round picks. The Magic would be a contender from an asset to asset standpoint and likely would be willing to give up anything short of Paolo Banchero to do a deal.

The Spurs in turn would definitely ask for Banchero back, and that would leave Orlando questioning whether they retool the entire franchise around Wembanyama instead. That’s a tough evaluation to make, especially since Banchero won Rookie of the Year. It’s not easy to cut bait from your No. 1 overall pick after one season, especially if he played well.

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets have the No. 2 pick, so they’re automatically in the mix even if they don’t offer much else for San Antonio. The Spurs also own Charlotte’s 2024 first-round pick which is currently lottery-protected, but that could be amended in a deal. So San Antonio does have some incentive for Charlotte to be decent. That doesn’t mean they need to sacrifice Wembanyama for that much.

Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller aren’t bad consolation prizes if the Spurs like either of them. They aren’t Wembanyama but he is only one guy, and the Spurs need more than one guy. The No. 2 pick, a series of future first-round picks and LaMelo Ball would at least get San Antonio to have a dialogue.