Now that the Suns are extremely out of the Western Conference Playoff race and words like "future" are being tossed around liberally by fans I started to think of June's NBA draft. As you're likely aware, the Suns will be slotted with anywhere from 12th - 14th pick in the draft depending on how they finish out this season. Sure they could hit the lottery jackpot and wind up in the top 3 but that probably won't happen.
Considering that was the general area the Suns were going to be picking in I decided to try and take a look at how that portion of the draft had fared in recent years. Since the draft can easily be broken up into sixth's I've expanded our range from the 11th pick overall to the 15th pick in the first round (which is currently the first pick out of the lottery). So how have things been going for teams in that range?
Well, bad. In fact, the 11-15 slots have basically been fruitless for the past 14 drafts.
If you're looking for someone who has developed into an All-Star player (even 1 appearance) from the 11-15 draft spots you have to go all the way back to 1996 when some schlubs named Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic and Steve Nash went 13, 14, and 15. Since then? Zero.
That's 70 different draft picks over the course of 14 years, none of which could muster 1 All-Star appearance. Sure there's still time for the 2010 middle picks - Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson, and Larry Sanders - but apparently the odds are quite long.
If you're looking for an All-Star comparison over that same 1997-present period here it is (listing all the guys with at least 1 appearance):
1st - 5th pick: 24 All-Stars (Duncan, Brand, K. Martin, Yao, L. James, D. Howard, D. Rose, B. Griffin, Francis, Durant, Billups, B. Davis, Gasol, C. Anthony, D. Williams, Horford, Jamison, Bosh, Paul, Westbrook, V. Carter, Wade, D. Harris, Love)
6th - 10th pick: 11 All-Stars (Szczerbiak, Kaman, Roy, R. Hamilton, McGrady, Nowitzki, Marion, Stoudemire, Pierce, J. Johnson, C. Butler)
Obviously the picks coming before 11-15 should outperform them, but even the portions of the draft coming AFTER have outperformed 11-15:
16th - 20th pick: 6 All-Stars (Artest, Magloire, Z. Randolph, D. West, J. Nelson, D. Granger)
21st - 25th pick: 3 All-Stars (Rondo, Kirilenko, Wallace)
26th - 30th pick: 3 All-Stars (T. Parker, J. Howard, D. Lee)
You can even reach into the 2nd round to find more All-Stars:
31st - 35th pick: 3 All-Stars (Arenas, Boozer, R. Lewis)
36th - 40th pick: 1 All-Star (Okur)
41st - 45th pick: 1 All-Star (Redd)
46th - 50th pick: 1 All-Star (M. Williams)
51st - 55th pick: 0 All-Stars
56th - 60th pick: 1 All-Star (Ginobili)
Seriously, look at that. You can break the NBA Draft into 12 even segments and only 2 of those segments have failed to yield an All-Star in the last 14 seasons. Hell, the 59th and 60th picks weren't even around until 2004. 51st - 55th has a solid excuse since most of those dudes are randoms you've probably never heard of, but what's up with 11-15?
Maybe you're saying to yourself, I'm sure it's not all bad, I'm sure it's borne some fine NBA players, just not All-Star level. And you'd not be totally wrong, but it's still not particularly attractive.
With stats as of March 31st, 2011 here are some of the overall statistical leaders for the 11th - 15th picks and some relevant NBA players and busts for that 1997-present period:
Games played: Bonzi Wells
Starts: Jared Jeffries
Rebounds: Andris Biedrins
Busts: Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Trajan Langdon, Jerome Moiso, Kedrick Brown, Fran Vasquez, Acie Law
Games played: Austin Croshere
Starts: Vladimir Radmanovic
Rebounds: Nick Collison
Games played: Corey Maggette
Starts: Richard Jefferson
Assists: Derek Anderson
Games played: Troy Murphy
Assists: Luke Ridnour
Games played: Matt Harpring
Points: Al Jefferson
Assists: Rodney Stuckey
Yup, that's the list. When you're trying to cling to Corey Maggette, Troy Murphy, and Al Jefferson as best in breed you know you've got problems. No the statistical measurement isn't perfect and you know I'm the last guy to go by All-Star berths but the findings are hilariously damning nonetheless.
If you're curious from the list above, any player I didn't mention wasn't good enough to be relevant but wasn't bad enough to be a bust. Examples are Anthony Randolph, Gerald Henderson, Terrance Williams, Austin Daye, and any of the 2010 draftees.
Obviously the numbers can and probably will improve over time since guys like Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, Kris Humphries, Tyler Hansbrough and Jason Thompson will continue playing and maybe starting games for years to come and probably become the statistical leaders for their pick. But it still doesn't appear there's an All-Star among any of those guys or any of the newer guys either.
If you had to form a starting 5 from those 11-15th picks this is probably what you'd be looking at:
C - Al Jefferson
PF - Troy Murphy
SF - Matt Harpring
SG - Richard Jefferson
PG - Rodney Stuckey
You can honestly throw together an arguably better starting 5 with guys picked between 56-60 (yes I know Amir Johnson is out of position but give me a break).
C - Marcin Gortat
PF - Luis Scola
SF - Amir Johnson
SG - Manu Ginobili
PG - Ramon Sessions
Does that mean the Suns should dump their lottery pick in exchange for one of the last 5 picks in the draft? Well obviously it does (not). But does that mean that when the Suns pick in that 11-15 range they are doomed to get a player who is at best Richard Jefferson and at worst Frederic Weis? Well not doomed but personally I wouldn't bet my SB Nation Arizona paycheck on it.
It's funny because most people look at that late lottery, low playoff drafting range and think that's the spot where teams pick guys who have high boom/bust probability. Yet in the last 14 years there has been lots of bust but no boom above a dull pop.
Maybe 2011 is the year that the next Kobe or Steve Nash slips to the 11-15 slots - but it probably isn't. Go ahead and disagree and talk about how much you love Jimmer, Kemba, and the Morris twins in the comments.