While we wait out the culmination of the NBA season, be it 12, 16 teams or even all 30 teams, in their own venues or in a Disney bubble, Suns fans are desperate for a return to normalcy.
I know this because of a very scientific internet study conducted over the last 24 hours.
We don’t know how to solve this pandemic, or how a bubbly playoffs will work out with players here and there being quarantined unexpectedly.
But we do know that there’s a chance the Suns will get good again someday, and that the draft lottery provides hope for accelerating the timeline.
We know all too well that some teams have a better chance than others, and that the valley boys are almost certainly going to get the worst possible outcome.
The Suns have had some ping pong balls in 9 of the last 10 lotteries. In those 10 chances, the Suns have held ground 7 times and lost ground 3 times. They have not moved up in the draft order thanks to the lottery since 1987 (Armen Gilliam).
Last year, the Suns doubled down on their lotto fun. They not only dropped in the lottery from 3rd place to 6th (remember that Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett went top 3), then traded down again on draft night to 11th for Cameron Johnson and a year of Dario Saric.
But that could all change this year, right?
As of today’s standings, which are the same as every day for the past nine weeks, the Suns have the 10th worst record in the league — their worst/best showing since 2015 — which gives them a 13.9% chance at a top-four pick.
Better than you thought right?
Well, one of the big reasons the Suns used their awful luck to drop three whole spots last year — they had a 52% chance to stay in the top four — is thanks to these newly flattened odds.
This year, the Suns might be the ones to leapfrog to the top, with a 13.9% chance to get up into that top four.
What’s there waiting for the Suns if they jump?
Unfortunately, there’s no Zion Williamson or Ja Morant this time, but there are good players in every draft so why not get one of the best?
What’s crazy is that this year every single draft expert puts these players in a different order, even at the top. No player is fault-proof, and none is a sure-fire All-Star talent.
Of Tankathon’s top four, LaMelo Ball and Killian Hayes didn’t even play American competition this past year after high school, while James Wiseman only played three college games before suspension. And for Suns fans, both James Wiseman and Okyeka Okongwu play Deandre Ayton’s spot on the floor unless you really like a pair of non-bombers on the floor at once, so that’s likely a non-starter.
LeMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton or Killian Hayes would be a nice addition in the back court as a combo guard off the bench and potential long term starter next to Devin Booker. They don’t shoot perfectly well yet, but have a lot of NBA skills that almost certainly won’t keep them buried on the bench all season.
If the Suns don’t move up, they almost certainly won’t move down more than one spot. At that range — 10 or 11 — the prospects profile similar to last year’s rookies Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome. Meaning, as rookies, likely could top out as good rotation players (Cam) but with enough holes to also make it possible they do nothing at all (Ty).
Again, scouts and draftniks are all over the board on these rankings and won’t get much better before the actual draft, whenever that is.
Most likely, there won’t be any NCAA tournament or Draft Combine or small group workouts to confuse scouts and raise player draft stock, and the one-on-one visits may end up being Zoom calls too.
Which makes this draft more of a crapshoot than usual, especially with no players dramatically standing out as the consensus No. 1 or 2 overall pick.
But could the front office decisions be even better this year? We’ve heard and seen a lot of “re-draft” podcasts and articles lately from drafts gone by and the true consensus is this: each year only about 50 percent of the actual lottery picks play up to their lottery status and would still be a top-14 pick years later (at least that’s better than the rest of the draft, which has a 20 percent success rate on quality picks).
Bottom line is that the Suns — assuming they keep their pick — will walk away a young prospect who may or may not be able to play as a rookie, depending on a lot of unknown factors.
And it’s a 50/50 shot whether the player makes a good NBA career out of that selection.