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NBA Win Totals Lowest They’ve Been in 25 Years as Victor Wembanyama Tanking Looms

NBA Win Totals Lowest They’ve Been in 25 Years as Victor Wembanyama Tanking Looms article feature image
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David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Victor Wembanyama #1 of Metropolitans 92.

The hype around presumptive No. 1 NBA draft pick Victor Wembanyama has oddsmakers pricing a historic tankapalooza into team win totals.

Five teams, the Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, are projected to win 24.5 games or fewer heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, at BetMGM.

The last time that happened?

Michael Jordan’s last dance season with the Chicago Bulls, 25 years ago, according to SportsOddsHistory.com, which excludes lockout and COVID shortened seasons.

The historically low expectations come ahead of a draft with lockstep buzz around Wembanyama, a 7-foot-4, 18-year-old, with the silky smooth skills of a six-footer and wingspan of a California Condor.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is calling him the “singular greatest prospect in NBA Draft history.”

Tanking for a high draft pick is by no means a new phenomenon in the NBA, where superstar talent can change a team’s fortunes in an instant. Teams are looking for the next LeBron James or Stephen Curry, who account for seven of the last 10 NBA title winners.

Finishing with a bottom three record gives teams a 14% chance at the No. 1 overall pick. Those chances worsen to 12.5% at four and 10.5% at five.

Responding to the “Trust the Process” Philadelphia 76ers — who tanked to four top three picks in four years the NBA lowered its lottery system to those percentages in 2019.

Since then the No. 1 pick has gone to the team with the fourth-worst record on average and the worst team has earned the second or third pick.

Choosing the right player has proven to be just as much of a crapshoot.

The 1997-98 season, the last time oddsmakers set nearly a fifth of the league’s over/under for win totals so low, the under went 3-2.

Michael Olowokandi went No. 1 to the Los Angeles Clippers that year, though that tankathon may have had less to do with him and more with the league’s economic system at the time, which had teams leaning more on ticket revenue.

Olowokandi would go on to average eight points and six rebounds in 10 seasons with three NBA teams, earning a bust-worthy status rivaled only by the likes of Anthony Bennett and Kwame Brown.

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