Are the Pacers bad enough to actually tank for Victor Wembanyama?

Victor Wembanyama - Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
Victor Wembanyama - Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers are pronounced by many as a rebuilding team and a non-playoff threat in the upcoming 2022-23 season. And while that holds true, the franchise is definitely not sulking at this fact. After all, the consequence of constantly losing in the new campaign could be in the form of a potentially franchise-changing player in Victor Wembanyama, perhaps the best prospect in all of basketball since LeBron James.

Despite Adam Silver’s rejection of profound tanking and the now-flat lottery odds up top, rebuilding teams will surely do their earnest to jockey for the top prize. After all, while Wembanyama has grabbed most of the headlines, the 2023 NBA Draft class is far from just a one-man race. After all, Scoot Henderson, the projected No. 2, would have gone first in any other recent draft.

Hence, the million-dollar question: do the Indiana Pacers actually have a compelling case to finish at the nadir of the standings and have a firm grip at landing good odds for the No. 1 pick?

Are the Indiana Pacers bad enough to actually tank for Victor Wembanyama?

In all honesty, the Pacers are unlikely to come even close to touting the worst record in the association next season. Even in just in the Eastern Conference, the Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic are relatively safe bets to have a worse win-loss card than Indiana.

Out West is where things get a bit hectic. While still as strong as ever, the conference is now home to multiple rebuilding teams who are definite locks to finish in the lottery. The San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets each have a reasonable shot to land the top prize by virtue of their rosters alone.

Hence, while no one has the Pacers making the playoffs on their NBA bingo cards for 2022-23, in reality, having them slotted as one of the worst squads and well in position for a good shot at Wembanyama or Henderson is also certainly not a case of captain obvious.

After all, the way the rosters are constructed in the present, Indiana has a better team overall than their rebuilding “peers”. Led by Tyrese Haliburton, young prospects Ben Mathurin, Chris Duarte, and Jalen Smith, as well as veterans Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, the Pacers will still pack a punch on a nightly basis. Sans a trade for their veterans, they might even win too many games to even be in the discussion for a top-2 pick.

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