Suns hope for lottery miracle - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Suns hope for lottery miracle

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Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2004 12:16 am | Updated: 6:13 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Suns fans will be rubbing rabbits' feet and stirring witches' brews today, hoping against hope to get lucky in today's NBA draft lottery.

Though it's not labeled this way, this might be called "parity day" because today is when teams who fail to make the playoffs hope to be rewarded for their failure with a top draft choice. Results will be known shortly after 5 p.m.

The Suns have more than a shot-in-the-dark's chance at ending up at No. 1: 6.4 percent to be precise.

Club officials haven't said who they would draft if they end up with the top pick. But it's noteworthy that they're sending Mercury star Diana Taurasi to represent them at the lottery.

The unspoken inference: The Mercury landed a star from Connecticut with the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft. So now, in the NBA draft, maybe Taurasi's appearance can generate the karma needed to grab another great Connecticut player: Emeka Okafor, who would give the Suns some badly needed defensive presence up front.

Says Taurasi, "I don't know what I have to do, if they are going to brand me or tattoo me, I'm not sure."

The Suns also have a 22 percent chance of grabbing one of the top three draft picks, a 13.6 percent shot at one of the top two.

Landing in the top two would seem to be the goal of all 13 lottery teams. That's because Okafor and Dwight Howard, a high school big man from Atlanta, are considered the top two picks (though there's not necessarily a consensus on who will go No. 1).

The players who will be drafted from No. 3 to No. 10 (the Suns can pick no lower than 10th) are still a crapshoot, one that could feature a number of prep phenoms. This will extend the trend of the past few years of drafting players based on estimated potential rather than on experience and accomplishment.

"We're dealing with a younger player and a less experienced player," Suns president Bryan Colangelo said. Even so, "We feel pretty confident that the top 10 picks could be impact players."

Much has been written and said of this pattern of taking players who are yet to develop NBA-level skills. Suffice to say that pro scouts who watch college players for three or four years become as familiar with their flaws as with their strengths.

So then they opt for younger players, whose upside can only be imagined.

Because of this, the draft's importance has been downgraded by many over the past several years, though last year's draft — which included LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade — may have slowed the trend.

Regardless, Colangelo doesn't seem to buy the idea that the draft has lost much of its significance, saying "Every year, people say the draft has gone down, or that it's weaker than ever. But every year, players are drafted who have an impact."

A prime example came two years ago, when the Suns presumably were "stuck" at No. 9. They took prep phenom Amare Stoudemire, who ended up as the rookie-of-the-year.

And yet, there's little question that a top-of-the-lottery pick improves a lottery team's chances of a turnaround. There's plenty of precedent for teams jumping up and grabbing the No. 1 pick even though the lottery has been weighted against them.

In fact, since the lottery started in 1985, only three times has the worst team ended up with the No. 1 pick: the Los Angeles Clippers in 1988 (they took Danny Manning); New Jersey in '90 (Derrick Coleman); and Cleveland last year (James).

According to the NBA, here's how the lottery — which will be staged at the league's entertainment studios in Seacaucus, N.J. — will work.

Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a drum. When four of these 14 balls are drawn, there are 1,001 possible combinations.

(Before the lottery, 1,000 combinations will be assigned by a computer to the 13 participating teams. If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls will be drawn to the top again.)

The expansion Charlotte Bobcats already have been assigned the fourth selection in the draft and will not participate. So the lottery will determine selections 1-3 and 5-14.

The Orlando Magic finished the season with the NBA's worst record (21-61), so they will be assigned 250 combinations. Utah, the best team in the lottery at 42-40, will have five combinations out of 1,000.

Four balls will be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the No. 1 pick. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the second and third picks. Then the Bobcats will get the No. 4 pick.

After that, the teams' records will determine where they pick.

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