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The Suns sacrificed the second half of the season for this, shutting down key players, experimenting with youth, all to better position themselves for the upcoming talent-rich NBA draft.

They’re about to find out how much it paid off.

Entering Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, the Suns are guaranteed a top-five pick, but management likely has its hopes set higher. Finishing with the league’s second-worst record earned Phoenix a 19.9 percent chance of obtaining the top pick and a 55.8 percent chance of landing within the top three.

This is a big deal in these parts.

RELATED: NBA mock draft: Doug Haller’s 1st edition | Latest Suns picks

Over 49 years, the Suns never have had the draft’s first selection. If they get it this time, few would argue if management decided to pop the champagne. With the franchise miles from the postseason – seven years and counting – a top pick could accelerate the plan and add excitement not experienced since the Steve Nash years.

This isn’t necessarily a deep draft, but it’s top-heavy. Experts have identified five players – Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, Kansas’ Josh Jackson and Duke’s Jayson Tatum – who have star potential. Of course, sometimes the experts are wrong.

Either way, the Suns are in a strong position. Over the past 20 years, the draft’s top-five spots have produced 31 All-Stars. Let’s break it down by selection:

The first pick

Obviously, this pick is as close to fool-proof as it gets. Over the past 20 years, the No. 1 selection has produced 11 All-Stars, including eight rookies of the year and three MVPs (Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Tim Duncan). With Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins on an All-Star trajectory, those numbers could look even better in a few years.

The bust factor here is present, but slim. In 2013, Cleveland drafted UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, who has started just four times in four years. In 2007, Portland selected Ohio State’s Greg Oden, but he played just three seasons because of knee problems.

And in 2001, the Washington Wizards selected Kwame Brown out of high school, a mistake that might be the biggest of Michael Jordan’s basketball career. (Jordan was a Washington executive at the time.) Brown played 12 seasons but never lived up to the hype, finishing with career averages of 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds.

In other words, he flopped.

RELATED: Can Phoenix Suns find point guard of future in NBA draft?

The second pick

Most years the No. 1 pick is clear. The intrigue starts with No. 2, and recent history hasn’t been kind. Put simply, this selection is a trap door. A banana peel on the sidewalk. A lot of hits and just as many misses.

Of the previous nine No. 2 selections, not one has made an All-Star team. The 2011 selection – Arizona’s Derrick Williams – has played for five teams in six years. The 2009 pick – Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet — already is out of the league.  In 2003, Detroit made what probably is the worst draft decision in sports history, selecting Darko Milicic over future All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Even safe picks haven’t turned out well. Michael Beasley (2008) struggled with marijuana use. Jay Williams (2002) suffered career-ending injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Overall, the No. 2 slot has produced four All-Stars (Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tyson Chandler and Steve Francis) and two rookies of the year (Francis and Emeka Okafor). Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby and Keith Van Horn all had solid careers, but for the most part, the star power here is lacking.

BICKLEY: Suns can’t pass on Lonzo Ball despite his disruptive dad

The third pick

This is where James Harden came off the board. Carmelo Anthony, too.

Over the past 20 years, No. 3 is responsible for seven All-Stars (Harden, Melo, Al Horford, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Baron Davis and Chauncey Billups). Washington’s Bradley Beal (2012) and Philly’s Joel Embiid (2015) soon could join them.

Even those who haven’t made an All-Star team have done OK.  O.J. Mayo (2008) averaged 13.8 points over an eight-year career. Ben Gordon played a solid 11 seasons and was the 2005 Sixth Man of the Year. Mike Dunleavy just wrapped up his 15th season.

The biggest bust: Probably Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, selected by Charlotte in 2006. Morrison had knee issues and played just five seasons. The Clippers’ selection of Darius Miles out of high school in 2003 also was a stretch, but teams generally have landed multi-year starters with this pick.

MORE: Is LaVar Ball hurting Lonzo Ball’s draft stock? | Your take

The fourth pick

No. 4 has produced only four All-Stars over the past 20 years, but teams still have seen value here.

Of the four All-Stars, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and the Clippers’ Chris Paul are likely future Hall of Famers. In addition, Chris Bosh is an 11-time All-Star and Antawn Jamison made it twice. Tyreke Evans was the 2009 Rookie of the Year and Lamar Odom (1999) was a versatile force.

Today, Memphis point guard Mike Conley (2007) and New York center Kristaps Porzingis (2015) are among the best at their positions, and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson (2011) and Miami’s Dion Waiters (2012) are valuable support pieces.

Yes, there have been reaches – Antonio Daniels, Marcus Fizer, Tyrus Thomas and Wesley Johnson – but the positives outweigh the negatives, and that’s before calculating the long-term potential of recent picks such as Cody Zeller (2013), Aaron Gordon (2014) and the Suns’ Dragan Bender (2016).

MORE: Suns’ rebuild through draft could take longer

The fifth pick

This is when development enters the picture. The past six No. 5 selections have yet to become full-time NBA starters. The 2013 pick – Phoenix’s Alex Len – has averaged 6.9 points and 6.2 rebounds over four years.

Even so, teams have struck gold. Five All-Stars have come off the board at this spot: DeMarcus Cousins (2010), Kevin Love (2008), Devin Harris (2004), Dwyane Wade (2003) and Vince Carter (1998). In addition, Mike Miller — the 2000 Rookie of the Year – and Jason Richardson – a 12-year starter – were value picks.

At the same time, Thomas Robinson (2012), Shelden Williams (2006) and Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2002) were not wise decisions.

BICKLEY: Suns fans should cheer draft lottery | Draft lottery odds

SUNS DRAFT HISTORY: Ryan McDonough’s first-round picks

Contact Doug Haller at 602-444-4949 or at [email protected] Follow him at Twitter.com/DougHaller.

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