CHICAGO — 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. This is the fourth straight season in which the team with the best chance to end up with the No. 1 pick got the top spot.
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 2007-2008 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 for the No. 1 overall spot 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, who accomplished the same feat this season at Arizona, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin (2008-09), Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan (1996-97) and Northwestern’s Evan Eschmeyer (1997-98).
This is the 10th straight year the Kings have picked in the top 10. The team has not made the playoffs since 2006, which is 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 at No. 3 overall in 2007 — a pick they used on Al Horford.
This is the final year of this lottery system. Next season, the three worst teams in the regular season will each 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.
Cleveland general manager Koby Altman said he thinks the team can find a valuable player at the No. 8 spot.
“I think when I, as we’ve gone through the process this year, I think this is a really deep draft,” Altman said. “If I was sitting with [No.] 8 in past years, I might not say that. I think 8 is very valuable this year.”
Altman was also asked if he would consider trading the pick to find a veteran to play alongside LeBron James in hopes of enticing the four-time MVP to re-sign with the team.
“We have every intention of diving into who we can get in this draft and how it can help our team,” Altman said.
Information from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin was used in this report.