In bleak Phoenix sports scene, Zion to the Suns would be a shot of hope
The Coyotes have faded. The Hotshots have folded. The Suns are limping to the finish line. The Diamondbacks are staggering from the gate. Sometimes the only thing to cheer is fear itself.
But we have another shot at redemption.
With their loss on Wednesday, the Suns thankfully secured a bottom-tier ranking in the NBA draft lottery staged May 15. They will have a 14 percent chance of securing the No. 1 pick, just like the Knicks and Cavaliers. They could become just the third franchise to win consecutive draft lotteries, and this year’s prize is Zion Williamson, the most valuable player to enter the league since LeBron James.
Suns fans are rolling their eyes in unison. We could never be so lucky.
Our lack of faith is a strange phenomenon. The Valley could conceivably welcome two of the most anticipated rookies in history – Duke’s Williamson and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. One is a basketball star with a NFL body, one of the rare household names to join the NBA in years. The other is an underdog QB who looks more like a point guard than a football player. They could extend a series of high-profile rookie rollouts in Arizona, topping last year’s tandem of Deandre Ayton and Josh Rosen.
The thought makes my palms sweat.
The Suns badly need a power forward. Williamson has the ferocity missing from Ayton, last year’s No. 1 pick. He has a freakish combination of size and athleticism. He is destined to compile a career full of Hall of Fame highlights, dunks and blocked shots. He could join a lineup featuring Ayton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson and Kelly Oubre Jr.
That has my attention.
Even if the Suns finish second in the draft lottery, they still win big. They can select Murray State’s Ja Morant, an elite point guard who slices, dissects and jumps over people. He is like Russell Westbrook, only different. Or they could trade that pick for an established veteran.
But this is also Phoenix, Arizona. We are not Titletown. We are a one-title town. Our sports bars cater to infidels. There is an all-encompassing sense of fatalism, a belief that leagues conspire against us (at worst) or don’t care about us (at best). As a result, we have no shot at winning the services of Ayton, Murray and Williamson is in the span of 12 months.
That’s too much fortune for a region weaned on failure, and most believe Williamson will end up in Madison Square Garden, conveniently and inevitably, just like Patrick Ewing many years ago.
It’s frightening how many fans believe the NBA draft lottery is a shell game, rigged inside league headquarters. It’s remarkable the NBA keep growing in popularity amid such suspicions. But the skepticism is real and pervasive in many cities, particularly Phoenix, where our persecution complex was fueled by former NBA Commissioner David Stern.
That’s why this draft lottery is important for the NBA and our local NBA franchise. If the Knicks don’t win, it will be a crushing defeat for all conspiracy theorists. And if the Suns some prevail, winning another draft lottery championship and adding Williamson to their current mix, they will go from most dysfunctional to most interesting team overnight.
At the very least, the Suns are in the game. Even if we could never be so lucky.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.