Victor Wembanyama just showed why Detroit Pistons’ embarrassing season may be worthwhile

Detroit Free Press

I was browsing around the internet moments after the laughably bad Detroit Tigers avoided being no-hit, when a Victor Wembanyama highlight graced the timeline on Twitter.

“Wait, what the heck did I just watch?” I thought to myself. So I watched the 13-second clip again. And again. And found another angle. And watched that again. And again.

This wasn’t no ordinary highlight. And Wembanyama is no ordinary teenage basketball player.

Wembanyama, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft on June 22, with this one play Sunday showed why the Detroit Pistons’ historic losing season might be worthwhile.

Playing for Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 in the LNB Pro A, the top league in France, the 7-foot-4 center knelt to the height of his defender and dribbled on the left wing with the dexterity of a guard, then stepped back and launched a 3-pointer.

Clank. It caromed off the front rim.

But then, out of nowhere, an arm and a hand appeared, skiing above the others, grabbed the ball at its apex in midair, controlled it with a giant palm and fingers, and slammed it home all in a split-second. The crowd seemed stunned. Some “oohs” and “aahs” rang out.

The hand of God? No. It was Wembanyama. He followed his own missed 3, and dunked it home. I’ve never seen someone dunk home their own miss from that far a distance. Maybe you have. It was startling to watch.

The slow-motion camera is even crazier.

More: Detroit Pistons 2023 NBA draft big board: How would top prospects fit in this rebuild?

Wembanyama after his feat, simply turned and started to run back down the court, as if it was no big deal. Huh?

The Pistons currently own the league’s worst record at 16-61, three wins behind the next-worst teams. They have lost 19 of their past 20 games.

With five games remaining, they’re almost certain to finish at the bottom of the standings, guaranteeing themselves a top-five pick when the draft lottery commences May 16. They have a 14% chance of winning the No. 1 pick, the same odds as Houston and San Antonio.

And Wembanyama is the prize that awaits. The 19-year-old is one of the best prospects to ever be scouted and beckons as a league-altering talent.

More: This is one of the Detroit Pistons’ worst seasons ever. What happened?

The Pistons, who need one win to avoid tying the franchise record for worst 82-game season set in 1979-80, could use an injection from Wembanyama. The franchise is desperate to reclaim itself among the greats. It hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008, with three postseason appearances in the past 15 years, each a four-game sweep.

And after years of forgoing a rebuild under owner Tom Gores, they finally were forced into one and in 2020 hired Troy Weaver as general manager.

Weaver has collected talent and dropped jewels in talks with the media, but three years in, has yet to put together a roster that can win even a third of its games. The Pistons, he said this preseason, had emerged from “ground zero” and were entering the “competing stage.” Their over/under win projection was set around 29.5 by oddsmakers.

But they started 3-9, then Cade Cunningham was sidelined with a shin injury and later underwent surgery, and the young and veteran talent Weaver collected never coalesced under coach Dwane Casey, despite several decent individual seasons.

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They’ve clearly set aside winning since early March, with multiple players out with injury, and have sunk to the league’s worst record.

But all that pain — Trauma for Wembanyama — could turn to joy if the ping pong balls fall the Pistons’ way in six weeks.

The Wembanyama revolution is coming to the NBA. The Pistons and their fans are praying it all starts in Detroit.

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