For the 13th time since its inception in 1985, the Phoenix Suns will have a representative at the NBA Draft Lottery.
This year, it’s guard Devin Booker, who finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting after being a lottery pick (13th overall) last year.
The landscape is a little different for the Suns this year. Phoenix had the fourth-worst record in the NBA, meaning they have the fourth-best chance to move up and earn this year’s top overall pick.
Phoenix has an 11.9 percent chance of getting the top pick, something that has never happened in franchise history. In 1987, the Suns had the seventh-worst record entering the lottery and moved up to number two to draft forward Armen Gilliam out of UNLV. But in those days, each lottery team had the same 14.29 percent chance of landing the top pick.
Here are some questions about trends and history in the NBA Draft Lottery and how the Suns could be affected …
Has a team with the fourth-worst record ever moved up to #1?
Yes, it’s happened, three times as a matter of fact. Most recently in 2012, when the New Orleans Pelicans (then, the Hornets), who went 21-45 in a lockout-shortened season, moved up from fourth and nabbed Kentucky big man Anthony Davis with the top overall pick.
In 1994, the Milwaukee Bucks (20-62) leapfrogged over Dallas, Detroit and Minnesota to the top spot and drafted Purdue forward Glenn Robinson.
And in 1987, the same year the Suns got Gilliam second, the San Antonio Spurs moved up from fourth to first and drafted Navy’s David Robinson.
How often do teams with the fourth-best odds actually move up?
Most recently, this happened last season when the Los Angeles Lakers elevated from fourth to second and drafted Ohio State guard (and amateur reality show producer) D’Angelo Russell.
That’s one of three times a team initially slotted fourth moved up to number two. The other two times were in 2000 when the Vancouver Grizzlies jumped up to take LSU forward Stromile Swift and in 1991 when the New Jersey Nets rose two spots in the lottery and drafted Georgia Tech guard Kenny Anderson.
Six times, a team slotted fourth has moved up to the third spot — and some pretty good players have been drafted after that has happened. In 2009, the Oklahoma City Thunder elevated to third and got James Harden from Arizona State. The Atlanta Hawks jumped up a spot and got Al Horford from Florida in 2007 and Portland experienced a similar fate when they advanced a spot and drafted Illinois guard Deron Williams in 2005, but was traded to Utah.
How many times do teams slotted fourth move down?
Yeah, there’s a chance of that happening too … and it’s a pretty good chance. In the draft lottery’s 31-year history, a team with the fourth-best odds has actually moved down in the process 17 times. That happened most recently in 2014 when the Jazz fell a spot and picked Australian teenager Dante Exum.
That also happened to the Suns in 2013 when they saw the Washington Wizards jump up from eighth to third and bump them down to fifth, where they drafted Maryland center Alex Len.
The biggest fall for a team slotted fourth happened in 1993, when the Sacramento Kings fell all the way to seventh — where they drafted Duke point guard Bobby Hurley, who is now the head coach at Arizona State.
Only twice has a team slotted fourth stayed fourth. In 2004, the Charlotte Bobcats stayed in that spot and drafted Illinois high school product Shaun Livingston and in 1996, the Milwaukee Bucks stayed put and drafted Georgia Tech guard Stephon Marbury. Coincidentally, both Livingston and Marbury were traded to other teams on draft night.
Have the Suns had good luck in the lottery?
In a word, no. Only twice has Phoenix moved up from their slotted position, and both of those occurred before the days of weighted chances. There was the Gilliam pick in ’87, where the Suns moved up five spots. The year before, Phoenix was slotted seventh, but got the sixth pick in what turned out to be the worst draft in league history and took Memphis center William Bedford.
On three occasions, the Suns have fallen in the draft order after the lottery, most recently 2013 (see above). In 1999, Phoenix was slotted eighth and fell to ninth and drafted UNLV forward Shawn Marion (that one worked out well) and in 1988, the Suns were slotted fifth and fell to seventh to get Temple forward Tim Perry, who turned out to be one of the trade chips that brought Charles Barkley to Phoenix. By the way, that year, Mitch Richmond was the fifth overall pick to Golden State. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
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