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Phoenix Suns Draft Lottery FAQ: What you need to know

The NBA Draft Lottery is coming up in less than two weeks - how scary is it for the Phoenix Suns?

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NBA: NBA Draft Lottery Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This is it! Today’s the day!

Today is the most important day of 2017 for the Phoenix Suns franchise. Possibly the most important day in several years, for that matter. The Suns have the best odds to earn the #1 overall pick since I was 2 years old.

Depending on what happens tonight there may be other more-important days later on, but for now this day marks the culmination of a half-year worth of “lotto positioning” in an effort to improve the top-end talent level of the Suns roster.

Tonight, the Suns find out where they will pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, thanks to the random popping and sucking of 14 ping pong balls.

The Suns can pick anywhere from #1 overall (19.9% chance) to #5 overall (23.3% chance), depending on which balls pop out of the hopper in which order. In fact, the Suns BEST odds are to drop to #4 overall (31.9% chance).

How does the lotto run?

As far as how the actual lottery works, here’s SB Nation’s Jason Patt to explain.

Because there are 14 non-playoff teams, 14 ping-pong balls numbered 1-14 are placed in a lottery machine. The balls are mixed for 20 seconds before the first ball is drawn. The remaining balls are then mixed for 10 seconds before the second ball is drawn. This process is repeated until four balls have been drawn to create a four-digit combination to determine the No. 1 pick.

There are 1,001 total combinations available, with one of those combinations thrown out and the other 1,000 combinations distributed among the teams. The worst team in the league gets 250 combinations, and the odds get worse for each subsequent team.

The team with the best record in the lottery only gets five combinations. If two teams finish the season with the same record, each tied team gets the average of the total number of combinations for the draft positions they hold. If the resulting average isn't an integer, a coin flip is done to see who gets the extra combination.

As you can see, the NBA takes quite a few steps to ensure no funny business takes place. Still, conspiracy theories are fun.

What could happen?

After the lotto balls are drawn, the Suns could finish anywhere from the #1 overall pick to the #5 overall pick.

Only the top three picks are subject to lotto balls, with the 4-14 picks then slotted in reverse order of the remaining non-playoff teams’ season win totals.

With the second-worst record in the league, the Suns cannot go any lower than #5 overall even if they are skipped over by three teams with lesser odds.

They have an 87.7% chance to pick somewhere in the Top 4 this June, a draft that many think boasts four sure-fire All-Stars and potential game changers before getting into the maybes.

Optimists will point out the Suns have a 19.9% chance of picking #1 overall for the first time in franchise history. Twice before, the Suns have been in the #2 position with even-steven or second-best odds for the #1 overall pick.

  • In 1969, a lost coin-flip gave the Suns Neal Walk instead of Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabber.
  • In 1987, a lost lotto draw gave the Suns Armen Gilliam instead of Hall of Fame center David Robinson.

Both of those were truly one-player drafts and the Suns just couldn’t get the luck they needed. Both Walk and Gilliam had respectable NBA careers, but come on. Those other guys were Hall of Fame players with multiple championship rings in their future!

This time at least, it’s not a one-player draft. The Suns could still end up with the best player from this draft no matter where they pick 1-5, though having the #1 pick means you can’t lose out on your favorite player before your pick comes up.

Who is representing the Suns?

It’s Devin Booker once again, this time joined by another superfan, Noah Smith.

He was there on the podium last year when the Suns stayed put at #4 when their chances were better to drop to #5 than anything else. So that’s good, right?

Remember in the Alex Len year (2013), the Suns dropped from #4 to #5, so... Booker >> Babby.

Last year, the Suns also stayed put at #13 with their second lottery pick (Washington), but given there was almost no chance anything else would happen, I’m not sure we can give Booker any more than a pat on the back for that one.

When and where can we find the lottery?

The lottery will air Tuesday, May 16 at 8:30 PM ET from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Look for it on ESPN


Wondering what the Suns could do with their pick? Wondering how many tries it takes to actually get that #1 pick?

Run the tankathon simulator!

Click here.


How sure are you that the Suns will get screwed by the (ping long) balls?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    I’d bet my life on it
    (125 votes)
  • 20%
    I’d bet a close relative’s life on it
    (87 votes)
  • 28%
    I’d bet some cold-cheese stadium nachos on it
    (118 votes)
  • 21%
    I’m liking these odds, and am confident the Suns will get #1 overall!
    (90 votes)
420 votes total Vote Now

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