With a top-five pick and five players with star potential, the Suns are in a good place. But how has each selection shown success?
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Suns star guard Devin Booker went to Navarrete Elementary School to surprise student Noah Smith with a trip to the NBA draft lottery in New York City on Friday. Patrick Breen/azcentral sports
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LaVar Ball won’t affect whether the Lakers select his son Lonzo in the upcoming NBA draft, Lakers president Magic Johnson told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
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Lonzo Ball’s signature shoes garnered a lot of attention when they were first released. But the sales numbers suggest the sneakers aren’t selling as well as the Big Baller Brand would like.
USA TODAY Sports
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As the Suns look to rebuild through the NBA draft, they are looking to Golden State and Oklahoma City as examples of how to do it right.
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Doug Haller discuss how Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas has become one of the best players in the NBA and who the Suns want in the NBA draft.
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley talk about the possibility of the NBA draft lottery is rigged and an updated on Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington on Friday. Diana Payan/azcentral
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss the Rockets’ explosion against the Spurs and a possible pitching implosion for the Diamondbacks.
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The Suns are guaranteed to have a Top 5 NBA draft pick. Here are some players they could take.
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss Kevin Durant and the Warriors as well as Zack Greinke’s start against the Padres.
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Several former Phoenix Suns players are in the NBA playoffs.
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Take a look at the Suns players that have guaranteed contracts for next season.
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Suns coach Earl Watson takes questions from the press at an end-of-season gathering at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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Suns guard Devin Booker discusses the 2016-17 season and how his team can improve throughout the offseason on Wednesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Video by Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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Doug Haller sums up interviews with Phoenix Suns management and players at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. || Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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Breaking down the top five moments in Suns guard Devin Booker’s season.
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Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley disagree on the NBA MVP and share their thoughts on the D-Backs’ hot start.
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Phoenix Suns’ Dragan Bender talks about the team’s win over the Dallas Mavericks in the last home game of the season, April 9, 2017. (Doug Haller/azcentral sports)
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Suns guard Devin Booker on why the Suns didn’t want Russell Westbrook to get a triple-double on their home floor.
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Thunder guard Russell Westbrook entered Phoenix on pace to average a triple-double for the season.
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Warriors star Stephen Curry talks about Wednesday’s win over the Suns.
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USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick discusses the struggles plaguing the defending champions.
USA TODAY Sports
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Suns guard Devin Booker discusses earning respect from officials and his early aggressiveness in a loss to the Clippers on Thursday at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Doug Haller/azcentral sports
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The arguments for and against Rockets star James Harden winning the MVP award.
USA TODAY Sports
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Ball and Fultz are two of the top prospects for the 2017 NBA draft.
USA TODAY Sports
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Suns forward Jared Dudley discusses the Suns’ winless road trip after a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. Doug Haller/azcentral sports
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A look at how far NBA players once made it in the NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY Sports
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In the latest NBA Power Rankings, the Warriors are rolling, even without Kevin Durant. Meantime, the Clippers are struggling at the wrong time and the Nets are playing their best hoops of the season.
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Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker talks about his team’s loss against the Charlotte Hornets, March 26, 2017. (Doug Haller/azcentral sports)
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Suns guard Devin Booker discusses his 70-point game against the Boston Celtics.
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Suns coach Earl Watson discusses his team’s shortage of players and how that is starting to weigh on them after Thursday’s loss to the Nets in Brooklyn. Doug Haller/azcentral sports
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Suns forward Jared Dudley discusses recent team injuries and how that impacts a team resting a few star players, following Tuesday’s loss to the Miami Heat. Doug Haller/azcentral sports
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Dan Bickley and Mark Faller discuss the Indiana job opening, which could pull Steve Alford away from UCLA, and whether the Bruins would pursue Suns’ head coach Earl Watson. Video: azcentral sports
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NBA players who have tallied the most points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals in a single game this season.
USA TODAY Sports
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In this week’s NBA Power Rankings, Russell Westbrook is leading the Thunder to a strong finish in the regular season.
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Suns point guard Tyler Ulis reacts to Friday’s home loss to the Magic.
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Kent Somers and Jay Dieffenbach discuss the Suns’ decision to shut down Eric Bledsoe for the season and the possibility of them getting UCLA’s Lonzo Ball? Video: azcentral sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick tells us why the Spurs will be hard-pressed to secure the top seed in the Western Conference.
USA TODAY Sports
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HoopsHype writer Alex Kennedy discusses some of the players who will be free agents this summer.
USA TODAY Sports
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Phoenix Suns center Alan Williams watches his mother, Jeri Williams, sworn in as Phoenix police chief in Chesapeake Energy Arena. (Paul Coro/azcentral sports)
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Hosted by head coach Earl Watson, who says the Suns “embrace and celebrate our youth.” Video: Phoenix Suns
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What can Suns expect with top-five pick?
Devin Booker surprises young fan with trip to NBA draft lottery
Lakers say LaVar Ball won’t influence decision on Lonzo
LaVar Ball’s shoe line has poor first week of sales
Suns look to emulate Warriors, Thunder in rebuild
Shot Clock: Ex-Suns player Isaiah Thomas shines
Shot Clock: Is the NBA draft lottery rigged?
Shot Clock: Rockets sizzle, D-Backs fizzle?
NBA mock drafts: Popular picks for Phoenix Suns
Shot Clock: Kevin Durant closer to a ring
Familiar faces: Notable former Suns in NBA playoffs
Notable Suns player salaries for 2017-18
Suns coach Watson wraps up season at press conference
Devin Booker: ‘I want to be a winner’
Doug Haller wraps up Suns’ 2016-17 season
Top 5 Devin Booker moments of 2016-17 season
Shot Clock: NBA MVP and surprising D-Backs
Dragan Bender on Suns win over Mavericks
Booker on Westbrook’s triple-double search: ‘Just didn’t want it to be here’
Russell Westbrook chases history
Stephen Curry on win over Suns
Cavaliers are struggling in a major way
Devin Booker on Suns loss to Clippers
James Harden for MVP: Pros and Cons
Lonzo Ball vs. Markelle Fultz: Tale of the tape
Jared Dudley on Suns loss to Hawks
How far NBA players made it in NCAA tournament
NBA Power Rankings: Warriors surging ahead of playoffs
Devin Booker on Suns’ fall to Hornets
Devin Booker on his 70-point night
Earl Watson after Suns’ loss to Nets
Jared Dudley on Suns’ loss to Heat
Shot Clock: Would Earl Watson leave the Suns if the UCLA job were to open up?
NBA’s best statistical performances so far in 2016-17
NBA Power Rankings: Russell Westbrook continues to carry Thunder
Tyler Ulis on Suns’ loss to Magic
Shot Clock: Eric Bledsoe is out, maybe UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is in?
Why the Spurs desperately need the No. 1 seed
Big-name free agents this summer
Alan Williams watching his mother’s police chief ceremony
Suns ’embrace youth’ in WeArePHX ‘Momentum’ video
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.