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While he’s yet to arrive on North American shores, Victor Wembanyama is already making an impact on the NBA scene. Tanking may be officially frowned upon, but it’s tough to avoid maximizing your chances when a generational talent will be available in the upcoming draft. Just ask the Houston Rockets about that.

The club currently sits at the bottom of the league’s standings, but that’s not enough to guarantee the first overall pick. Through that lens, owner Tilman Fertitta sent a candid message to Houston’s fans: start praying ASAP.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta ended an interview with ‘Pray for Victor’

If you’re a long-time sports fan, you’ll know that interviews taking place outside of a normal context — think a press conference or the locker room — can either be incredibly boring or show a surprising amount of personality. While Tilman Fertitta’s appearance on a local NBC affiliate didn’t wade into the basketball weeds, there were still some Rockets-related comments.

At the end of the interview, which took place at Galveston’s Mardi Gras celebration, there was a simple “Go Rockets” comment. Using that as a springboard, the club owner took things into his own hands.

“Thank God, we’ve got 10 days off,” Fertitta quipped. “And pray for Victor!”

It was never directly specified who this Victor was, but it doesn’t take a Rocket scientist to connect the dots. With Houston sitting at the bottom of the Association, it’s impossible to avoid looking toward the draft. And while Scoot Henderson isn’t a bad consolation prize, every franchise is hoping that the ping-pong balls align so they can secure Victor Wembanyama‘s services.

While tanking isn’t the NBA’s favorite storyline, it’s tough to blame any franchise for praying to land Victor Wembanyama

Since Fertitta maintained plausible deniability — Victor could mean anyone with the first name — it’s unlikely that there will be any consequences for his comment. With that being said, though, we know that Adam Silver and the NBA brass aren’t fond of tanking.

As laid out in a 2022 ESPN post, the commissioner called tanking a “serious issue” and pledged that the league would be paying attention with a generational prospect headlining the draft. Since a promotion and relegation structure, in which the worst teams are bumped out of the Association, has been deemed impossibly disruptive, the NBA settled for flattening the lottery odds. That reduces the advantage of finishing with the worst record and could explain Fertitta’s call for prayers.

Silver does recognize the appeal of tanking for Victor Wembanyama, though, and it’s tough to disagree with that perspective. While the teenager’s talents are apparent to anyone who’s watched more than a few seconds of highlight clips, his game-changing potential becomes even more apparent when we specifically consider the Rockets’ situation.

Despite having some nice pieces on the roster, like Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., and Kevin Porter Jr., Houston has struggled across the board. While it’s easy to poke holes in the worst team in the league, they’ve been unable to up their pace of play and have sat near the bottom of the Association in effective field goal percentage. The club has also struggled to score at the rim and doesn’t attempt many corner threes. There’s also an overall defensive weakness, which compounds the scoring woes.

Wemby’s size will help the Rockets’ interior offense, and he’s an overall plus on the defensive end. Beyond his shot-blocking ability, the teenager is surprisingly mobile; even if he’s beaten at the point of attack, he has the foot speed and overall length to make up the ground.

Taking things a bit further, Wembanyama is capable of shooting threes, but his mere presence should be enough to change the club’s offensive calculus. Having the young center on the block will open up more space around the perimeter, and it’s easy to imagine him tearing down defensive rebounds and either dribbling up the floor or throwing an outlet pass to start the transition.

Through that lens, who could blame Tilman Fertitta and company for saying a few prayers?


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