The Phoenix Suns have pretty much locked up the worst record in the NBA.
Sitting at 19-57, and 2-28 in their past 30 games, Phoenix would have to finish 2-4 just to finish in a tie with the Memphis Grizzlies (21-54) and/or Atlanta Hawks (21-54).
That’s only if one or both of those teams finishes 0-7.
In fact, thanks to the Suns’ current nosedive to the top of the reverse standings, Basketball-Reference.com gives the Suns 90.4% odds of finishing with the worst record based on their simulations.
Based on the Suns strategic resting policy and phantom injuries I would say it’s a lot closer to 100%.
I won’t be surprised if Phoenix ends the season on a 19 game losing streak, with just one win in their last 30 games, but now that they have a two game cushion I really hope they find a way to scrape one out and finish with 20 wins.
But that’s enough on the Suns’ current quagmire... what about their ability to pull themselves out of this morass?
Here is a snapshot of the current lottery positions and odds courtesy of Tankathon.com.
As has been discussed ad nauseam lately, the Suns have a 25% chance of picking #1, a 46.5% chance of picking in the top two, a 64.2% chance of being in the top three... and a 35.8% chance of falling to #4.
Thankfully, the Suns can fall no further than fourth... because based on the kismet of this franchise they’ll probably fall as far as possible.
Above is a list of every player drafted in the top four since 2000.
The X’s indicate the highest All-NBA team selection that player has achieved.
The first thing that I would note is that Anthony Davis is the most recent player drafted in the top four to make an All-NBA team.
That means no player drafted in 2013, 2014, 2015 or 2016 has achieved the feat yet.
Joel Embiid will almost certainly make one of the teams this season and Karl-Anthony Towns is also knocking on the door, but I think this just shows that young players don’t generally ascend to this status. Embiid is currently 24 years old.
Interestingly enough, Damian Lillard (6th), Andre Drummond (9th), Draymond Green (35th) were taken in the same draft as Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th) and Rudy Gobert (27th) were all drafted outside the top four. Three of them outside of the lottery.
Just taking the sample of 52 players from 2000-2012, there have been 20 players who have made an All-NBA team. That’s about 38.5%.
Here is the breakdown of All-NBA players by draft position.
#1 - 9/13
#2 - 3/13
#3 - 5/13
#4 - 3/13
Is picking #1 overall important?
It sure looks that way. The #1 spot has produced nearly as many All-NBA players as the next three positions combined.
But what are the Suns odds based on actually getting the #1 pick AND selecting an All-NBA talent?
#1 - 25% odds of getting pick x 9/13 chance at All-NBA player = 17.3%
What about superstars at that position?
That’s what the Suns really need.
Third team players like Al Horford and LaMarcus Aldridge are great pieces, but not ones a franchise can build itself around as the best player.
Only four of the 13 players drafted #1 overall went on to be named first team All-NBA.
LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis.
If we look at that percentage...
#1 - 25% odds x 4/13 chance at first team All-NBA player = 7.7%
And even then... a team can get the bad luck of having that player basically suffer a career ending injury like Rose.
Only one of those players went on to win a championship, LeBron with the Cavaliers... but that was after he already left and returned. In fact, the only player among the four who has played his entire career with the team that drafted him is Davis, and if the Pelicans fail to build a championship caliber team around him he might get wanderlust.
This draft is considered pretty strong by some, although that sure seems to be a recurring theme... until after the fact when it’s proven wrong.
No draft on the list, however, produced an All-NBA player at all top four picks.
Even the vaunted LeBron draft saw Darko Milicic bust spectacularly after being selected second.
The top of this draft appears to be dominated by big men. DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley are both likely top three picks and Mohamed Bamba or Jaren Jackson Jr. might slip into the top four.
How have big men selected in the top four fared recently?
Out of the 25 centers and power forwards selected between 2000-2012 only 10 have made an All-NBA team. That’s 40%. Just about the same percentage as overall.
So what does this tell us?
Only that a top four pick doesn’t guarantee anything at all.
Not a superstar.
Not a championship.
That drafting in the top four is more likely to net the Suns Stromile Swift than Anthony Davis.
Dragan Bender than Chris Bosh.
One could even argue that scouting and player development (and a competent GM solidifying those areas) is more important than draft position.
There are no guarantees in the draft.
The Suns’ race to the bottom of ping pong ball hell still gives them bad odds of getting a player that will turn this thing around.
Unless maybe the Suns draft Bagley.
Then he can leave in a spectacular public display of narcissism after the Suns fail to build a championship caliber roster around him... but ultimately make peace with a nettlesome owner and bring a championship to his hometown.
Then leave again???