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How Valuable Are the Phoenix Suns' Two 2013 NBA Lottery Draft Picks?

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How Valuable Are the Phoenix Suns' Two 2013 NBA Lottery Draft Picks?
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In what has been an extremely disappointing season to say the least, a lot of Phoenix Suns fans can't seem to stop raving about the team's two lottery picks in the upcoming 2013 NBA draft.

If the draft were today, the Suns would have the 6th and 14th picks in the draft. That could potentially bring some great talent to Phoenix, and many fans are excited.

Honestly, you can't blame them. Right now there isn't much else to look forward to on the roster itself, and the draft often becomes one of the most interesting discussions for any fan of a rebuilding team. The Suns have a few voids in the roster that desperately need to be filled, and perhaps the draft can provide an answer to the team's problems. 

However, before anyone starts thinking that the solutions to all of the team's many weaknesses can be found in the upcoming draft, one question does need to be asked.

Just how much can we expect from these two lottery picks?

Although having another reason to root against the Los Angeles Lakers might be fun, you may ultimately have more fun tracking Los Angeles' record this season than you do actually watching the player the Suns use their pick on.

Because in reality, having a dismal season does not mean a team will automatically be rewarded through the draft.

To put that theory to the test, I conducted some research on past drafts. I took 420 different lottery picks from the years 1979-2008 to see just how often top picks turn out to be All-Stars. Players still on their rookie contracts were not included, as many of them have yet to reach their potential and could still blossom into All-Star players. 

 

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This graph shows how many former lottery picks made at least one All-Star appearance throughout their career, and as you can see, the success rate is not very high. In fact, just 127 of the 420 total players made an All-Star appearance, which is a success rate of just 30 percent.

In addition, there are several other interesting observations to note about the data.

First, look at the downhill trend of the graph. That can be expected in any draft, of course, but it shows that if you don't have a top three or at least top five pick, you really do need to get lucky in order to acquire a top-tier talent. In most drafts there is somewhat of a consensus on the top five picks before the draft even starts, and those selections are always the safest.

The first overall pick is especially safe, and those picks are almost never busts. 23 out of 30 first overall picks made an All-Star appearance, and while there are a couple players such as Kwame Brown who were complete busts, you are almost guaranteed a solid starter with that pick. Even players such as Andrew Bogut and Andrea Bargnani have had productive careers, even if they have not made an All-Star appearance. 

After that, the rest of the top five is usually fairly safe as well. In fact, 74 out of 150 total top five picks made an All-Star appearance, which is a great rate of 49 percent.

But after that, drafts can often be devoid of top talent. Only 35 of 150 players taken in picks six through ten became All-Stars, and only 18 of 120 players taken in picks 11-14 were honored with an All-Star appearance. Those are success rates of just 23 and 15 percent, respectively, which shows why it is so important to get a top five pick as opposed to another pick at the tail end of the lottery.

Another thing so alarming about past drafts is how many lottery picks struggle to survive just a few years in the NBA. There are plenty of players who become decent role players or starters, but there are also a lot of guys who are just unable to play at a professional level and are out of the league a couple of years after being drafted.

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Greg Oden is just one example of a top draft selection that can go horribly wrong.

Take the 2007 draft as an example. That was only several years ago, and yet Greg Oden, Yi Jianlian, Acie Law, Julian Wright and Al Thornton are all currently without a team. More than 33 percent of that year's lottery is already out of the NBA, which means the Suns may draft a player who is unable to contribute in any way whatsoever.

Additionally, we must consider the fact that many players who make one All-Star appearance are not actually superstars who can carry a team. Unless you're really high on one-time All-Stars such as Kenyon Martin, Devin Harris, Chris Kaman or Danny Granger, we can probably all agree that the Suns will need at least a few lottery picks to pan out if they want to contend. 

So, say the Suns need at least two, if not three or four of these picks to blossom into players capable of making at least one All-Star appearance. If they are only drafting a star in one out of every three of four tries, and they need a few stars, how many seasons will it take to rebuild?

Math majors, I'm leaving that question for you.

Above all, I'm not trying to say that drafting is ineffective and pointless. For the Suns, the draft is probably the only way they can find a true superstar, and the Suns will rely heavily on their multiple first-round picks in the next several years.

However, don't get too excited about the draft, because you would be setting yourself up for disappointment. After all, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson were both top five picks, and neither of those two look like future superstars.

How long will it take for the Suns to make it back to the playoffs?

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Take the Seattle Supersonics (now the Thunder) as another example. Even they had to draft Desmond Mason, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nick Collison, Luke Ridnour, Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene in the first round before they ever drafted Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka. Many praised them for a "quick" rebuilding process, but the Sonics drafted useless players again and again in the early and mid-2000s. 

Rebuilding is a slow and often painful process, and it won't be easy. The best thing Suns fans can do is to remain patient and loyal to the team during the dark ages.

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