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#TBT: The History of the Suns in the NBA Lottery

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This will be the Suns 14th adventure into the lottery. How did the previous 13 fare?

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns
Can the Suns get another one of these guys?
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week we walked down memory lane and rehashed the history of Suns top five picks.

This edition will cover the team’s history of results in the lottery going back to the inception of the system in the 1985 Frozen Envelope Patrick Ewing to the Knicks charade.

Of course, only a conspiracy theorist would actually think that the NBA lottery is rigged.

But it is rigged.

1986

Pre-lottery 7th

Post-lottery 6th

+1

Drafted: William Bedford

Should have drafted: Mark Price/Dennis Rodman/Jeff Hornacek

The Suns made their very first lottery pick very unmemorable by taking Bedford. He was shipped out of town after his rookie season after accomplishing the staggering feat of shooting less than 40% from the field in 50 games, including 18 starts.

I know shooting 40% isn’t that unusual, but Bedford was a 7 foot tall center.

And you thought Alex Len was struggling.

The Suns actually did draft Hornacek 40 spots later, and he became a fan favorite before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in a package that brought back Charles Barkley.

1987

Pre-lottery 7th

Post-lottery 2nd

+5

Drafted: Armen Gilliam

Should have drafted: Scottie Pippen/Kevin Johnson/Reggie Miller

Just imagine how differently things might have turned out if the Suns had drafted Pippen, who went on to become one of the best 50 players in NBA history, instead of Gilliam.

The Suns also passed on KJ, but ended up getting him back along with Tyrone Corbin and Mark West, in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers for All-Star Larry Nance.

1988

Pre-lottery 5th

Post-lottery 7th

-2

Drafted: Tim Perry

Should have drafted: Rod Strickland/Steve Kerr/Dan Majerle

Suns fans booed the wrong player.

While Majerle drew the ire of the crowd when he was selected 13th by Phoenix, he ended up becoming one of the most beloved players in franchise history.

Tim Perry did not.

After picking in the top seven in three straight years the Suns had acquired a triumvirate that would have been outstanding as long as the goal was to get the crap kicked out of them every time they stepped on the court.

Somehow the Suns managed to succeed despite their own ineptitude with the draft, as they repeatedly ended up getting better players with lower picks and including spare parts in trades that brought back All-Stars.

Such is the fickle nature of the NBA.

1999

Pre-lottery 8th

Post-lottery 9th

-1

Drafted: Shawn Marion

Should have drafted: Shawn Marion

The Suns finally nailed a draft, taking the guy who was arguably the best player left on the board (that Manu Ginobili guy also ended up having a decent career).

The Matrix was really the cornerstone on which a brilliant era of basketball was built.

He was also very articulate and charismatic in those Room Store commercials.

2002

Pre-lottery 9th

Post-lottery 9th

0

Drafted: Amar’e Stoudemire

Should have drafted: Amar’e Stoudemire

Hitting the jackpot again just three years later gave the Suns the second piece of a core that would propel the team to one of the best runs in franchise history. In fact, it’s pretty easy to argue that the Suns got the very best player in the entire draft.

Injuries may have been the only thing that kept Stoudemire from leading the Suns to their first NBA championship, as his knees first caused him to miss time and then robbed him of his freakish athleticism.

2004

Pre-lottery 7th

Post-lottery 7th

0

Drafted: Luol Deng

Should have drafted: Andre Iguodala... or just not traded Deng to the Bulls

The Suns have a pretty successful track record with their returns on trading draft picks... or was it exactly the opposite of that? Instead of getting a guy like Iggy, who would have been perfect for 7SOL, the Suns ended up trading Deng for a 2005 pick that became Nate Robinson... who also never played for the Suns.

2009

Pre-lottery 14th

Post-lottery 14th

0

Drafted: Earl Clark

Should have drafted: Anyone but Earl Clark

The Suns weren’t really in the market for a point guard at this point, although in hindsight maybe they should have been looking for Nash’s replacement. It might have made it easier to blow things up after STAT left in the black summer of 2010.

There were a few guys like Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague that went on to have solid careers. There were also a bunch of other guys that turned into legitimate NBA players (Taj Gibson, DeMarre Carroll, Danny Green).

Instead they drafted Earl Clark.

2011

Pre-lottery 13th

Post-lottery 13th

0

Drafted: Markieff Morris

Should have drafted: Kawhi Leonard/Jimmy Butler/Isaiah Thomas

In drafting one of the more ignominious figures (#FOE) in franchise history the Suns passed on several All-Stars and one player, Leonard, who is a transcendent generational talent.

IT actually ended up falling back into the Suns’ lap, but they decided to ship him out of town so he could become a top 20 player in the league for the Boston Celtics.

Morris is now starting for the Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals while the Suns haven’t sniffed the playoffs in seven years.

2012

Pre-lottery 13th

Post-lottery 13th

0

Drafted Kendall Marshall

Should have drafted: Anyone but Kendall Marshall

It’s easy to bag on Marshall, because he sucks, but it was actually pretty tough to educe any talent out of this draft. The only player that really sticks out below where the Suns drafted is Draymond Green, but I’m not sure his personality would have allowed him to become the player he is today if he had been on the Suns.

Can you imagine a universe where he and Markieff were on the same team?

2013

Pre-lottery 4th

Post-lottery 5th

-1

Drafted: Alex Len

Should have drafted: Giannis Antetonkoumpo/Rudy Gobert/C.J. McCollum

While current Suns GM Ryan McDonough blatantly whiffed on his first chance at the draft, the rest of the league was in the same boat.

With all the scouting that takes place it is still somewhat surprising that gems like the Greak Freek and Stifle Tower can fall to lucky teams outside the lottery. There were those that saw the writing on the wall, though. Brightside’s own Kris Habbas had Rudy Gobert ranked as the best player in the draft... and since the gangly gargantuan is proving to be one of the most imposing defenders in NBA history his foresight seems pretty keen.

Alex Len will hopefully not be playing basketball for the Suns anymore sometime soon.

2014

Pre-lottery 14th

Post-lottery 14th

0

Drafted: T.J. Warren

Should have drafted: Nikola Jokic

It’s still too early to know how Warren’s career will unfold. He’s a very skilled scorer, probably capable of averaging over 20 points per game if given the opportunity, but his shortcomings on defense and shooting the three appear to limit his potential to become a very good player.

Jokic managed to fall to the the Denver Nuggets in the second round and looks like he is poised to become one of the top five bigs in the league.

2015

Pre-lottery 13th

Post-lottery 13th

0

Drafted: Devin Booker

Should have drafted: Devin Booker

Since the last time the Suns nailed a draft was the precursor for a decade of absolutely incredible basketball, I’m going to assume that getting Booker is going to follow the Matrix timeline and Phoenix is just a couple years away from being one of the best teams in the league.

This draft also included Karl-Anthony Towns (#1) and Kristaps Porzingis (#4), but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Suns ended up with the very best player in this draft when it’s all said and done.

2016

Pre-lottery 4th

Post-lottery 4th

0

Drafted: Dragan Bender

Should have drafted: ???

Teammate Marquesse Chriss (selected #8) outperformed Bender in their rookie season, but injuries kept Bender from showing off his potential when the youngsters got more burn down the stretch.

Nobody from this draft class really looked special in their first year and it’s entirely possible this could go down as one of the weaker draft classes in NBA history.

————-

So despite the persecution complex held by many fans of the Suns, myself included, Phoenix has only moved down 3 times in 13 lotteries. Of course two of those times the Suns were slotted 14th, so there was no possibility of dropping.

The Suns have also moved up twice, including jumping up five spots to the number two pick in 1987.

So it isn’t really like the team has gotten hosed by the system, Phoenix just hasn’t been in the lottery all that often and on many occasions they had minuscule odds of actually moving up.

And it also looks like the Suns really hit on three draft picks. The only problem is that those were at #9, #9 and #13. It’s a little better to get the best player in the draft when picking #1.

So hopefully the Suns get lucky next Tuesday and get their first opportunity to do so in franchise history.

But I’m kind of expecting that the Suns will end up drafting third or fourth.a