NBA Draft Lottery 2013: The Suns finally set themselves up

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Table courtesy of Piston Powered

Time: Tuesday, May 21, 5:30 p.m. PST


Finally, the Phoenix Suns have found themselves not only in the lottery, but in a good position to win it. The NBA Draft Lottery kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday and the Suns’ fourth-worst NBA record gives them the fourth-likely chance of winning the top overall pick. Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby will be in attendance in New York, while GM Ryan McDonough remains in Phoenix. McDonough will address the media following the pick.

Their chances stand at 11.9 percent, but history proves that it’s truly up to luck. Since the draft lottery started operating in a weighted format in 1990, the fourth-worst team has never won; the 1994 Bucks earned the fourth slot and got the top pick, but they were only the fourth team in line by losing a three-way tiebreaker with the second-worst NBA record. The Orlando Magic stand in Phoenix’s way as the most-likely suitors to get the first pick, but their odds only sit at 25 percent. The Charlotte Bobcats (19.9 percent shot of winning) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (15.6 percent) also have better chances than the Suns.

But there’s good reason to never say never.

In 1993, the Orlando Magic were coming off a decent rebuilding year after selecting top pick Shaquille O’Neal the year prior. Despite having the 11th-worst NBA record, they won the lottery and used the pick on Chris Webber, who was immediately exchanged for Penny Hardaway.

The league’s worst team hasn’t picked first since 2004, when the Magic selected Dwight Howard after putting up the NBA’s worst mark.

The Suns should be simply happy to have a decent shot at selecting first overall. In the lottery era the Suns have selected in the top-10 only three times, and they haven’t been in a position to pick so high since 2004 when they netted the seventh overall pick but traded Luol Deng to the Chicago Bulls for second-round choice Jackson Vroman and a 2005 late first-round pick that became Nate Robinson.

Phoenix has selected in the top-5 only six times. Those picks included Neal Walk at No. 2 in 1969, Corky Calhoun at fourth in 1972, John Shumate also at fourth in 1974, Alvan Adams at fourth in 1975, Walter Davis at fifth in 1977 and most recently Armen Gilliam as the second overall pick in 1987.

If the Suns become the first team with the fourth-worst record to win the lottery, it wouldn’t be all that surprising. The teams that have won the lottery the most in the 23 years since the lottery’s weighed system began are the third-worst teams and the fifth-worst teams, which have each won the lottery five times.

As the below shows, Phoenix has historically been very good at getting value when it selects in the middle of the lottery. Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion were building blocks for very successful teams, after all. Should the Suns have kept Deng, their luck in the top-10 would still be considered exceptional.

The Suns’ lottery picks

Year Standings Lottery result (player selected)
1999 8th-worst 9 (Shawn Marion)
2002 9th-worst 9 (Amare Stoudemire)
2004 7th-worst 7 (Luol Deng*)
2009 14th-worst 14 (Earl Clark)
2011 13th-worst 13 (Markieff Morris)
2012 13th-worst 13 (Kendall Marshall)

How it works

The draft lottery includes 1,000 combinations of four-number sequences with each NBA team assigned to their share. The Suns and their 11.9 percent, for example, will have 119 combinations that would net them the first, second or third overall picks. The league will draft the first, second and third picks via the lottery system and the teams will fill in after that in order of worst-to-best record. That means Phoenix at worst will select seventh, but that is highly unlikely. Three teams below Phoenix in odds would have to select first, second and third for that to happen.

Lottery odds for 2013

Team (record) Number of combinations Percent chance of winning
Orlando (20-62) 250 25
Charlotte (21-61) 199 19.9
Cleveland (24-58) 156 15.6
Phoenix (25-57) 119 11.9
New Orleans (27-55) 88 8.8
Sacramento (28-54) 63 6.3
Detroit (29-53) 36 3.6
Washington (29-53) 35 3.5
Minnesota (31-51) 17 1.7
Portland (33-49) 11 1.1
Philadelphia (34-48) 8 0.8
Toronto (34-48) 7 0.7
Mavericks (41-41) 6 0.6
Utah (43-39) 5 0.5

Lottery wins by record since 1990**

Team by record # of wins (since 1990)
Worst 3
2nd-worst 4
3rd-worst 5
4th-worst 0
5th-worst 5
6th-worst 2
7th-worst 1
8th-worst 1
9th-worst 1
10th-worst 0
11th-worst 1
12th-worst 0
13th-worst 0
14th-worst 0

*Luol Deng was traded by the Suns on draft day.

**This table is by pure record, not by order of lottery odds, which could include tiebreakers.

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