Phoenix Suns: 2015 NBA Draft Lottery Odds

Jun 26, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; A general view of the stage before the 2014 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; A general view of the stage before the 2014 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

On Tuesday, May 19, 14 representatives from the NBA’s non-playoff teams will meet at the New York Hilton Midtown for the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery. For the uninitiated, this event will determine the order of the first 14 picks in the draft.

Finishing with a 39-43 record this season, the Suns had the ninth best record in the Western Conference and the second best record among non-playoff teams. As such, they have the greatest probability of snagging the 13th pick — the second worst pick in the lottery.

On Tuesday, the Suns will be hoping their draft lottery representative — Alex Len, Phoenix’s fifth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft — will bring them some good luck and defy the odds in the form of a top-three pick.

Why the Suns are sending Len, a guy who’s dealt with two ankle surgeries, a knee injury, a broken pinkie, another sprained ankle and a broken nose ever since he left college, I do not know. That’s sort of like booking a family vacation with Clark Griswold as your travel agent. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

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Of course, the real problem isn’t Len’s luckiness/unluckiness. The bigger issue is trying to overcome the improbable odds that the Suns will end up with the 13th pick.

For those who aren’t familiar with how the draft lottery works, 14 ping pong balls numbered 1-14 are placed in a lottery machine and four balls are drawn from it. There are a total of 1,001 combinations, but only 1,000 are assigned to specific teams (the 11-12-13-14 combination is disregarded and not assigned to any lottery team).

The 14 lottery teams are ranked in reverse order by regular season record and assigned a set number of those 1,000 possible combinations. Here’s the breakdown:

1. 250 combinations, 25 percent chance at receiving the No. 1 pick
2. 199 combinations, 19.9 percent chance
3. 156 combinations, 15.6 percent chance
4. 119 combinations, 11.9 percent chance
5. 88 combinations, 8.8 percent chance
6. 63 combinations, 6.3 percent chance
7. 43 combinations, 4.3 percent chance
8. 28 combinations, 2.8 percent chance
9. 17 combinations, 1.7 percent chance
10. 11 combinations, 1.1 percent chance
11. 8 combinations, 0.8 percent chance
12. 7 combinations, 0.7 percent chance
13. 6 combinations, 0.6 percent chance
14. 5 combinations, 0.5 percent chance

We could get technical and break down every team’s odds at every pick they could wind up receiving, but let’s get to the point and focus on the Phoenix Suns. The most likely outcome, given their status as the second best non-playoff team, is that they wind up with the 13th pick.

There is a 96 percent chance the Suns stay right where they’re supposed to be at No. 13. There’s a 1.8 chance the Oklahoma City Thunder leapfrog Phoenix for the No. 13 pick, which would put the Suns at No. 14 — where they were last season when they finished with 48 wins and selected T.J. Warren.

But you don’t care about the inevitable. You want to know what the odds are that the Suns somehow conjure up some good karma and sneak into the top three. To be frank, they’re next to impossible. But let’s assume you’re an eternal optimist and take a look anyway.

Overall, the Suns have a 2.18 percent chance of moving into the top three, with a 0.6 percent chance at the top pick, a 0.71 percent chance at the second selection and a 0.87 percent chance at snagging the third pick.

Since the NBA adopted the draft lottery system in 1985, the Suns have only moved up twice in franchise history. In 1986, they were most likely to wind up with the No. 7 pick but moved up one spot to select William Bedford with the sixth overall pick.

Bedford was projected to be a star center, but played only six seasons in the NBA, averaging 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game for his career because he succumbed to drug use.

The last time the Suns moved up in the draft was 1987, when they upgraded from the fifth pick to second overall. Phoenix used their pick on Armen Gilliam. Though he played 13 seasons in the NBA, only two and a half of them came with the Suns before he was traded to the Charlotte Hornets.

Gilliam was selected ahead of future Hall of Famers and/or NBA stars like Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant, Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson.

So yeah, even when the Suns have defied the odds to improve their draft position, they haven’t been able to do anything with it (though, admittedly, those mistakes came in back-to-back years in the 80s).

Is it time for Phoenix to get some much-needed help in the karma department? Is the universe listening to the whispered prayers of Suns fans everywhere? Are the basketball gods anything more than merciless beings that love to rain down injuries and depressing draft results on NBA fans in the Valley of the Sun?

Probably not, but as Tuesday approaches, at least Suns supporters will be able to come to terms with the insurmountable odds when Phoenix receives its No. 13 pick.

Next: Phoenix Suns: The NBA's Most Depressed Fan Base?

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