As lousy weeks go, the Suns outdid themselves. Just four days after being dismissed from the playoffs by San Antonio, the Suns watched a lottery selection in next month’s NBA draft slip away.
In Tuesday’s lottery drawing to establish the draft order, the Atlanta Hawks moved up to the third overall pick.
Had the Hawks not drawn a top-three pick, they would have been required to hand the pick over to Phoenix to complete the 2005 Joe Johnson trade.
So instead of securing their highest draft pick since taking Armon Gilliam second overall in 1987, the Suns will settle for two late first-round picks, No. 24 and No. 29, this year and wait until next year to claim Atlanta’s unprotected first-round pick.
Last Tuesday, the Suns were tied 2-2 with the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals and controlled home-court advantage. But after controversial suspensions to Amaré Stoudemire and Boris Diaw and two losses in three days to San Antonio, the Suns were eliminated 72 hours later.
Now, even the ping-pong balls are rolling the wrong way.
Phoenix had a 62.2 percent chance of getting Atlanta’s pick and drafting between fourth and seventh on June 28. It’s been 21 years since a 60-win team had a pick that early in the draft (Boston took Len Bias in 1986).
But Atlanta was the only one of the NBA’s four worst teams to either hold its position or move up in the draft.
“I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” Suns coach and general manager Mike D’Antoni said moments after the results were revealed live on television. “You roll with the punches. The good news is we’re a good team with good players.
“An extra asset would have been nice. It would have given us more options. But it didn’t fall our way, and we’ll move forward with what we have with the idea of improving ourselves.”
That wasn’t all the bad news for Phoenix on Tuesday. The top two players available in the draft, Greg Oden of Ohio State and Kevin Durant of Texas, are likely headed to the Western Conference to bolster two of its few weak sisters. Portland vaulted to the top spot and Seattle will pick second.
“It’s not like there aren’t enough good teams in the West already,” D’Antoni said. “Thanks a lot.”
The teams that finished with the three worst records this season — Memphis, Boston and Milwaukee — dropped out of the top three spots. Memphis, which had a 25 percent chance of picking first, will pick fourth, while the Celtics wound up fifth and the Bucks sixth.
Although the Suns still have two first-round picks, recent history and current circumstances indicate they won’t use both of them. The Suns haven’t kept a first-round pick since 2003 (when they picked up Zarko Cabarkapa and Leandro Barbosa), and at least one of the picks will likely be used as trade enticement as the Suns try to unload some payroll (Marcus Banks) and move either closer to or under the league’s luxury-tax threshold.
“There are a lot of other teams in worse shape,” D’Antoni said. “We have a great nucleus, and we’re going to add to it with all the means that are available to us. We’re going to be even better than we were this year.”
NBA draft order
9. New York-x
11. Atlanta (from Indiana)
13. New Orleans
14. L.A. Clippers
15. Detroit (from Orlando)
17. New Jersey
18. Golden State
19. L.A. Lakers
21. Philadelphia (from Denver)
22. Charlotte (from Toronto through Cleveland)
24. Phoenix (from Cleveland through Boston)
28. San Antonio
30. Philadelphia (from Dallas through Denver and Golden State)
x-Chicago owns right to swap picks with New York