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Dan Bickley

After brush with good fortune, Suns back to regularly-scheduled torment

Dukes' Zion Williamson second from right, is interviewed by an ESPN reporter during the NBA basketball draft lottery Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nuccio DiNuzzo)

Our power trip is over. We’ve controlled and commanded the previous two major professional drafts. We’ve been the center of everything, walking away with Deandre Ayton and Kyler Murray. It’s been fun while it lasted.

And now back to our regularly-scheduled torment.

The 2019 NBA draft lottery was exactly what you suspected – another sucker-punch to Planet Orange.

After a 19-63 season, they fell all the way to No. 6. Twice in the past three years, the Lakers have leapfrogged the Suns in draft order, shaking your faith in ping pong balls and fair competition.

It’s hard not to feel bruised. The Lakers are like salt in the wound and stepping on Legos. Their arrogance is exceeded only by their delusion. They act like they deserve the ridiculous parade of superstars who have come to them because of Hollywood, the climate, the ocean and all the entertainment moguls sitting courtside.

Just a few days ago, Suns fans relished in the normalcy and temporary advantage they had gained over the Lakers. Monty Williams chose to coach our NBA team, which appropriately rewarded him with a five-year contract. The Lakers hired Frank Vogel, gave him only three years and made him hire his successor (Jason Kidd) as top assistant.

It almost seemed like these two rivals had traded places on the dysfunction scale. It felt like poetic justice. And then the draft lottery happened, where the Suns ended up with a draft pick that is virtually untradeable and without any real promise. When Zion Williamson would’ve been like drafting a young Charles Barkley out of college, the battering ram that came out of Auburn.

Even worse, Suns were forced to endure those moments of bile and anger, when the Suns were locked in at No. 6 and the Lakers were still in play for the No. 1 overall pick.

That would’ve been tragic. And we were left with the bitter consolation prize of the Lakers locked out of the top three, where the elite players reside.

So this is partially about our Los Angeles complex and a franchise that always get what they don’t deserve. It’s also the realization that the Suns will not fill one of their two greatest needs in the upcoming draft (starting point guard, starting power forward). They will instead join the mad scramble for free agents in what promises to be a wild offseason of player movement.

Denver and Portland are obviously ascending. The Clippers are expected to make a serious splash in free agency. The Western Conference is only getting deeper, and Wednesday’s draft-lottery demotion will surely cool any interest Kevin Durant might’ve had in in playing for one of his favorite NBA cities, one of his favorite NBA coaches (Williams) and one of his newer friends (Devin Booker).

In short, and in the end, the NBA draft lottery proved that nothing comes easy in Phoenix.

Unlike that team in L.A.

After all, the Suns won last year’s draft lottery. They responded with 19 wins. But only after firing their general manager right before the season. And that was before firing another rookie head coach. After the player they selected following their previous draft-lottery debacle in 2017 (Josh Jackson) blew off a fan appearance and was arrested at a music festival.

We are coming off a season of unprecedented embarrassments. That should be worth more than the No. 6 pick in the draft.

There are powerful lessons here. Never trust hope when you’re dealing with the NBA. The art of tanking might’ve just been demolished by a lottery system that doesn’t favor the weak. And if the Suns want avoid future heartbreak and humiliation at the NBA draft lottery, here’s the greatest solution of all:

Stay out of it altogether.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier