Just How Valuable Are NBA Draft Lottery Draft Picks?


In what has been an extremely disappointing season to say the least, a lot of Suns fans can't seem to stop raving about the team's two lottery picks in the upcoming draft.

Really, you can't blame them. Right now there isn't much else to look forward to, and the draft often becomes one of the most interesting discussions for any fan of a rebuilding team.

However, before anyone starts thinking that the solutions to all of the team's problems can be found in the upcoming draft, one question does need to be asked.

Just how much can we expect from these two lottery picks?

Although having another reason to root against the Lakers might be fun, you may ultimately have more fun tracking Los Angeles' record this season than you do actually watching the player the Suns use their pick on. Because in reality, having a dismal season does not mean you will automatically be rewarded through the draft.

To put that theory to the test, I conducted some research on past drafts. I took 280 different lottery picks from the years 1989-2008 to see just how often top picks turn out to be All-Stars. Players still on their rookie contracts were not included, as many of them have yet to reach their potential and could still blossom.

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After looking at that graph, hopefully you realize that lottery picks are no guarantee at drafting a star. Only 79 of the 280 lottery picks made one All-Star appearance, which is a success rate of just 28 percent! And besides that, there are several other interesting things to note.

First, look at the downhill trend of the graph. That can be expected, of course, but it shows that if you don't have a top three or at least top five pick, you really do need to get lucky. In most drafts there is somewhat of a consensus on the top five picks before the draft even starts, and those picks are always the safest. In fact, 51 out of 100 total top five picks made an All-Star appearance, which is a great rate.

But after that, drafts can often be devoid of other top talent. Only 20 of 100 players taken in picks six through ten became All-Stars, and only eight of 80 players taken in picks 11-14 were honored with an All-Star appearance. So, as you can see, that is why it is so important to get a top five pick as opposed to another pick at the tail end of the lottery.

Another thing so alarming about past drafts is how many lottery picks struggle to survive just a few years in the NBA. There are plenty of players who become decent role players or starters, but there are also a lot of guys who are just unable to play at a professional level and are out of the league a couple of years after being drafted.

Take the 2007 draft as an example. That was only several years ago, and yet Greg Oden, Yi Jianlian, Acie Law, Julian Wright and Al Thornton are all currently without a team. More than 33 percent of that year's lottery is out of the NBA, which means the Suns may often draft a player who is unable to contribute in any way whatsoever.

Also, we haven't even considered the fact that many players who make one All-Star appearance are not actually superstars who can carry a team. Unless you're really high on guys like Devin Harris, Brook Lopez or Kenyon Martin, we can probably all agree that the Suns will need at least a few lottery picks to pan out if they want to contend.

So, let's say the Suns need at least two, if not three of four of these picks to blossom into stars. If they are only drafting a star in one out of every three of four tries, and they need a few stars, how many seasons will it take to rebuild? Math majors, I'm leaving that question for you.

Above all, I'm not trying to say that drafting is ineffective and pointless. For the Suns, the draft is probably the only way they can find a true superstar.

However, don't get too excited about the draft, because you would be setting yourself up for disappointment. After all, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson were both top five picks, and neither of those two have panned out. Even the Thunder had to draft Desmond Mason, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nick Collison, Luke Ridnour, Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene before they drafted Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka.

Rebuilding is a slow and often painful process, and it won't be easy. The best thing Suns fans can do is to remain patient and loyal to the team during the dark ages.

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