If Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery selection has Suns fans nervous, a glimpse into the past might offer an explanation.
The league’s silver anniversary of pingpong balls and beating odds has Phoenix slotted with the 14th pick heading into the lottery, which will be broadcast on ESPN before Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between Los Angeles and Denver.
It’s the Suns’ highest draft spot since 2004, when they took Luol Deng with the No. 7 pick and traded him to Chicago for the Bulls’ Jackson Vroman, a future first-round pick and cash.
(That first-round pick was subsequently used on Nate Robinson in 2005, who was then shipped to New York to bring in Kurt Thomas.)
Deng. Robinson. Rajon Rondo. The list goes on.
Under the lottery’s weighted system of overall record vs. likely draft position, the Suns can’t drop below No. 14 since they were a nonplayoff team. But because they had the NBA’s best record among nonplayoff teams, they have only a 0.5 percent chance of striking gold and landing the No. 1 pick, a 0.6 percent chance at being No. 2, a 0.7 chance of getting the third selection and a 98.2 percent chance they’ll stay at No. 14.
If a miracle does bounce Phoenix’s way, it could be the strangest of lottery sequences.
Since the NBA adopted a weighted lottery system, only Orlando in 1993 has come close to these Suns’ odds, and that was one year after the second-worst NBA record parlayed the Magic into Shaquille O’Neal and a 20-win improvement between 1992 and 1993.
The Magic scored the No. 1 pick again in 1993 despite 1-in-66 odds (1.5 percent) and used their second consecutive top pick on Chris Webber, whom they immediately traded to Golden State for the rights to former Suns guard Anfernee Hardaway and three future first-round picks.
More good news for teams such as the Suns: Sacramento (17-65) has the best odds of landing the top pick at 25 percent, but not since the Magic ended up with Dwight Howard in 2004 has the team with the worst record won the lottery.
Most draft pundits view this year’s crop as a relatively weak draft class. If the Suns stay at No. 14, NBAdraft.net has them picking Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn, while ESPN.com has them taking point guard Eric Maynor from Virginia Commonwealth.