The NBA has had a horrible problem with tanking for years.
An NBA superstar arguably has the biggest impact throughout all of team sports, so franchises write off entire seasons for a mere 25% chance of landing one.
The results of the NBA’s annual tank-a-thon are finally in, and here’s a look at the teams who stand the most to gain.
The NBA draft process is always a crapshoot, but there’s usually a consensus about which players should go in the top 2-3 slots.
Such is the case this year with a seemingly clear top two and a third prospect with a tentative hold on the third spot.
Luckily for the Phoenix Suns, they acquired the top pick in the draft and now have an opportunity to add a potential star who can turn around their misfortune.
The Phoenix Suns’ most important victory of the year came Tuesday, as the franchise won the 2018 NBA draft lottery.
Barring a trade, this will be the Suns’ first No. 1 overall pick in franchise history. After a league-worst 21-61 season, Phoenix had the best odds to win the lottery.
“It’s a historic day for the franchise,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said while clutching the No. 1 envelope that the Suns logo appeared from to win the first pick.
This is the fourth straight season in which the team with the best chance to end up with the No. 1 selection got the top spot.
The Sacramento Kings will select second, and the Atlanta Hawks will go third. The NBA draft is June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The Suns have an interesting decision to make, as the franchise has some familiarity with two of the top prospects in this year’s draft.
Big man DeAndre Ayton is expected to be one of the first players selected next month, and he played in the Suns’ backyard at Arizona. He averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in his only season with the Wildcats, earning the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. The 7-foot center dominated the NCAA to the tune of 24 double-doubles on the season, the second most by a freshman in Division I history, behind only Michael Beasley, who recorded 28 in 2007-08 for Kansas State.
Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic has been on NBA radars for a while, earning the 2016-17 EuroLeague Rising Star award while growing his game overseas. At 19, Doncic already has the type of professional experience that scouts salivate over as he transitions to the NBA.
New Suns coach Igor Kokoskov coached Doncic as the pair helped lead Slovenia to a gold medal in last year’s European championship.
Another possible candidate at No. 1 is Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III, who became the first Blue Devil in history to lead the ACC in scoring and rebounding, averaging 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. The 19-year-old helped lead Duke to the Elite Eight, becoming one of just five players in a major conference over the past 25 years to average 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds and shoot 60 percent or higher from the field in a season. That list includes Ayton, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin (2008-09), Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan (1996-97) and Northwestern’s Evan Eschmeyer (1997-98).
McDonough hopes the top selection can give the Suns the kind of star power that will carry them into the next phase of their rebuilding process.
When told that Jackson wants the Suns to select Ayton, McDonough chuckled.
“I was hoping it was unanimous,” McDonough said. “That would make my job easier. I guess we got a decision to make.”
The Suns, in fact, have several decisions to make as they own four picks in June’s draft — two each in the first round (Nos. 1 and 16) and the second round (Nos. 31 and 59).
This is the 10th straight year the Kings have picked in the top 10. The team has not made the playoffs since 2006, the longest active drought in the NBA.
The Hawks, who recently hired Lloyd Pierce as their head coach, have their highest draft pick since they selected Al Horford at No. 3 overall in 2007.
This is the final year of this lottery system. Next season, the three worst teams in the regular season each will have the same 14 percent chance to win the lottery. This year the Suns, who finished dead last in the league, had a 25 percent chance to win the lottery, while the Memphis Grizzlies had a 19.9 percent chance and the Dallas Mavericks had a 13.8 percent chance. The Grizzlies and Mavs landed at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.
The rest of the lottery slotted as follows: Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, LA Clippers (picks Nos. 12 and 13) and Denver Nuggets.
The Cavs, who are playing the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, likely had higher hopes for what became the No. 8 pick. Cleveland acquired what was the Brooklyn Nets’ pick from Boston in the Kyrie Irving trade.
The last time the Phoenix Suns had a chance at the number one pick was 1969 when they lost a coin flip to the Milwaukee Bucks.
With the first pick, the Bucks selected Lew Alcindor, better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Abdul-Jabbar finished his career as arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time. The second pick of the 1969 draft, Neal Walk, did not.
Hopefully, for the Suns’ sake, they get a better outcome.