Can the NBA Lottery save the Suns?

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May 9, 2017, 1:54 PM | Updated: Nov 21, 2017, 3:34 pm


With a disappointing finish this season, the Phoenix Suns can take solace because they are likely to get a top-three pick in the upcoming NBA Lottery.

Based on their 24-58 season record, the Suns should end up with the second pick in the NBA Lottery. But when the ping pong balls fall, there are never any guarantees about how things will turn out. Having the second-worst season record does not necessarily mean getting the second selection in the lottery.

In comparison, the NFL draft is much more straightforward.

“Teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs are assigned draft slots 1-20,” explains the league. “The order is determined by the standings at the end of the regular season: The club with the worst record will pick first, and the one with the best record will pick 20th.”

NFL teams that made the playoffs are assigned draft slots 21-32. The order is determined by the results of the previous year’s postseason play.

The current basketball lottery system for non-playoff teams was adopted by the NBA Board of Governors in June 1984.

Watch (1)The 14 teams that did not qualify for the 2017 playoffs are part of the lottery. According to the NBA, each team is assigned a certain number of combinations out of 1,000. So far, the association has not released the 2017 combinations. But in 2016, the Philadelphia 76ers finished the season with the NBA’s worst record (10-72) and were assigned the first 250 combinations. Phoenix had 119 combinations. The Chicago Bulls, the best team in the lottery at 42-40, had only five combinations out of 1,000.

Based on prior years, Phoenix should have about a 48 percent chance of having one of the first two picks and a 17 percent chance of picking third. The lottery is weighted to give the best picks to the worst teams, and in 2016, the order and selections pretty much occurred as scripted. Through luck and judicious trading, however, things don’t always work out that way.

As evidence, consider that since 2011, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending champions, have had the top pick three times. They also picked first in 2003 when they chose LeBron James. For good measure, they got the top pick in 1986 as well. In contrast, teams like the Suns and the Jazz have never had first pick.

Of course, having the first choice doesn’t guarantee getting the best player. Only five times this century has the top pick ended up being selected as rookie of the year. The Suns have had three top rookies, the most recent being Amare Stoudemire in 2002-03 after being picked ninth. The others were Walter Davis in 1977-78 and Alvan Adams in 1975-76. Davis was selected fifth and Adams was picked fourth.

Whether Phoenix gets to pick second, first or in a lower spot, whom the team will choose is uncertain. Predictions on the NBA’s mock draft tracker have the Suns considering Josh Jackson, Lonzo Ball and Josh Tatum. Last season’s pick of Dragan Bender shows Phoenix is willing to bet on the long-term future of the franchise by developing promising young players.


Although the Suns didn’t have a stellar season on court, with the help of CenturyLink, they proved to be winners off the court by supporting charities such as:

  • Be A Leader Foundation
  • Ambassadors of Compassion
  • The Society of St. Vincent de Paul
  • Youth On Their Own
  • Opportunity, Community and Justice for Foster Kids
  • Phoenix Children’s Hospital
  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix
  • Tu Nidito
  • Catalina Council, Boy Scouts of America STEM Project

The Project Assist Program sponsored by CenturyLink and the Suns gives monthly $2,000 donations to local non profits who are positively impacting the community.

Whichever player the Suns select in 2017, it will add another piece to a team already stockpiled with talented prospects. Barring injuries, the team can look forward to a better season come fall.

CenturyLink native

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Can the NBA Lottery save the Suns?