The NBA draft is a crapshoot. There are no guarantees in the lottery. After all, nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes, right? Or are all of these adages just myths waiting to be dispelled?

Here's the regular Sunday installment.  On Monday. I fail at deadlines. After watching Markieff Morris have another impressive showing and witnessing the team throwing daggers in the fourth quarter while finishing off my research last night.... I'm beginning to think I may need to reassess my expectations for the season at some point in the not too distant future.  Worst case scenario I can still try to play the reverse jinx card. Maybe something for another week....

For now I was ruminating on another topic.  There was a little bit of back and forth over this during the past week and it has resurfaced at various points since the dawn of time over the last few years.  I'm not going to delve into what strategy I think the Suns should be taking in terms of their rebuild (much).  I'm just going to analyze the value of a top five pick, especially one in a top tier draft.  Also, what guarantees do exist (there are some) in this game of chance?

All of this stitched together in a variegated quilt of random musings...  and there will be tables.

But before that...

Being the worst team does not guarantee a team the first pick.  Or the second.  Or the third.  Or the fourth.  But it does guarantee that team one of those four picks.  The worst team, in the current lottery structure, is guaranteed a top four pick.  The second worst team is guaranteed a top five pick.  The third worst is guaranteed a top six pick - top five is 96%.  Here is the breakdown of all the odds:



All of the picks are guaranteed to fall within a certain range.

The NBA isn't the NFL.  The lottery does help discourage teams from going the "Suck for Luck" route.  Can you imagine the maelstrom of scathing press the NBA would take if they simply let the worst team pick first?  They might have a team go from 56-26 all the way down to 10-72 (you know, for comparison sake) just to get a franchise quarterback player to rebuild for a new generation.  Instead, the lowliest teams depend on the favor of a combination spewing computer.

But, being in the top five is where the action is.  A team selecting there has given themselves an inside track to finding NBA royalty.


This table was created using SLAM Magazine's 500 Greatest NBA Players of All Time.

The list was created in 2011 and only consisted of players with at least five NBA seasons played.  This is a couple of years old, so players like LeBron will have risen since this point.  The exact rankings are immaterial for the purpose of this evaluation.  They simply serve as a useful guideline.

According to this, 39 of the top 50 players ever were taken in the top five.  34 of the top 41. 13 of the top 15.  The top eight.

Well, I guess I am making a couple of assumptions here.  The territorial pick was basically a PR gimmick that allowed teams to call dibs on players that attended college in the area to foster local support.  Wilt, presumably, would have still been a number one pick for his overall skill level - despite another team not benefiting from ticket sales to his faithful Jayhawk followers.  I'm putting Lucas in the same boat (well, not the exact same boat).  George Mikan may have also gone top five, if there was a draft, after winning NCAA player of the year twice while leading the nation in scoring - including 53 in a tournament game during a year DePaul won the national championship. Malone joined the NBA in a dispersal draft from the sale of the Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St. Louis during the NBA-ABA merger.

Some years a fall from grace can be quite debilitating.  Settling for Emeka Okafor, instead of hitting on Dwight Howard, is a franchise altering (in the wrong way) consolation prize. Imagine being stuck with Emeka Okafor on your team...

That draft (2004) didn't have a ton of star power, but did offer a couple of solid NBA players such as Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson and Josh Smith.  Some drafts, however, are better than others.  Years like 1985, 1987, 1996 and 2003 were great times to be in the top five, irrespective of exact position, as you can see below...

The 2014 draft class is predicted to be similar to these in terms of star power, headlined by players such as Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart.


These are all of the players in SLAM's top 150 that have been drafted since 1985.  I arbitrarily chose this season since it was the first year of the early lottery system.  It seemed more than fair as a starting point considering the draft class from the prior year. This opens up the field to allow more great, but not transcendent, players to be included in the discourse.

26 top five players.  18 players selected sixth or later.  11 of 15 in the top 50 taken fifth or higher.

That's over 21 years.  That's 26 top 150 talents out of 105 selections.  Then, being allowed to pick from everyone left in the world, including you and me, the rest of the draft produced just 18.  Also, the chance of striking gold on a second round pick is Manu Ginobili (it's easier to call it that than try to determine an actual percentage).  Anything below 28, for that matter.  Just don't tell this to Archie Goodwin.

On a side note, it's hilarious to look back at how pitiful the 2000 draft class was.  Three players (Kenyon Martin, Jamaal Magloire and Michael Redd) combined for three all-star appearances out of this class.  Three total.  Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Dermarr Johnson, Chris Mihm and Keyon Doolng all went in the top 10.  Damn.


And now we see why drafting these types of players is so imperiously urgent.  Let's go back to 1985 again, because I like that year... plus it was Back to the Future year.  Every team that has won a title since 1985 has had a top five pick as its first or second best player.  Every team drafted their own first or second best player except the 2004 Detroit Pistons (and arguably 2008 Celtics).

The NBA favors the superstar and whatever team possesses him.  Only eight teams have won the NBA title since 1985. That's 29 seasons.  Over that period if your team didn't have Magic, Thomas, Jordan, Olajuwon, Duncan, Shaq, Kobe, or LeBron (Wade) there wasn't much hope for your championship aspirations.  Eight players - 25 championships.

The one real outlier on this is Kobe Bryant. He was drafted as a 17 year old kid.  With the new draft eligibility requirements and extensive improvements to scouting it is even more unlikely that a future league icon will slip like this.


Finally, we have the players taken in the drafts from 2006-11 who have made all-star games and/or all-NBA teams. Basically the guys who have shown the most propensity to become (or already are) franchise type players.  This list may expand, as some players are late bloomers.

If we add 2003-05 to this list 13 of the 15 players listed are top five picks. Interestingly enough, while everyone but Harden from this table is still on their original team only Dwyane Wade from the 2003-05 classes is still with their original team.  While this lends credence to the school of thought that teams can acquire franchise players in trades, the trend has been for these players to force their way to teams of their choosing, generally in large and desirable markets.


Nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes.  Fact or fiction?  Well, I personally know people who have neatly evaded paying taxes, unless someone from the IRS is reading this... in which case everyone has paid them with the utmost fealty.

There are also some guarantees in the draft/lottery and there other general guidelines based on empirical data. Hopefully I have provided enough evidence to help support my conclusions:

- Finishing with one of the worst two records (and basically worst three) guarantees a top five pick.

- The 2014 draft is expected to produce multiple all-stars and maybe even superstars.

- Superstars are nearly indispensable in the championship formula.

- Superstars are much easier to find in the top five of the draft.

- Most teams that win titles draft their own superstars.

While being bad and picking high doesn't guarantee a team will land star or superstar talent, far from it, it does give the team a much better chance.  There are the methods of trades and free agency, but these are less likely routes and tend to favor specific teams.

The Suns, for instance, have gone the routes of trades and free agency and gotten really close to winning a title, but have never drafted their own phenom in the top five and gone that route.  They've been too good to try and not good enough to win.

There are few guarantees in life.  Let's look at this analogy.  Going to college and getting a degree doesn't ensure that a person will have a more successful career with better earnings than a person who foregoes that route and starts working straight out of high school.  Some people don't even need college.  They can be successful entrepreneurs and outpace the accomplishments of doctors and lawyers.  But a lot of them end up cashiering and waiting tables, too.

On the whole, going to college gives people the best odds of having successful careers.  On the whole, finding a franchise player in the top five gives a team the best odds of winning an NBA title.

At least that's my take.

Go-Go Gadget Gerald Green and his dunk show are just one of the highlights of the week that was. This week I review the past week, look ahead to the next, share news and notes, and look at an important stat...

It looks like the Phoenix Suns (5-2) internally, and now, externally, are starting to make some believers out of the fans and the rest of the NBA alike. The sample size is still relatively small, but after 8.5% of the season the Suns are one of the better looking young teams in the league.

Game Recaps

@ New Orleans Pelicans - W (104-98) Full Recap

@ San Antonio Spurs - L (99-96) Full Recap

vs. Denver Nuggets - W (114-103) Full Recap

vs. New Orleans Pelicans -- W (101-94) Full Recap

This week one thing was evident, there is a new Markieff Morris in town.

For the first time in his career Markieff is playing consistent basketball inside 12-feet and in its most basic form, playing power forward. In his first 147 games Markieff had never put together a string of games like he has in last four games. Every game this week Markieff scored at least 17 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and shot over 45% from the field.

While Markieff was the individual story of the week it was a team effort to go 3-1 and continue this solid play. The team defense is continuing to evolve every game, getting better and better, allowing the Suns to experience offensive lulls and remain in the game.

So far this season the young talent that General Manager Ryan McDonough has acquired in Eric Bledsoe (24 years old, 20.9 points per game) and Miles Plumlee (25, 9.5 rebounds per game) have been playing at a very high level.

The Pelicans found out twice that the Suns have a young, dynamic team that is a few steps ahead of them despite all of their young celebrated talent. With all their injuries the Nuggets were not able to keep up with the Suns despite getting 21 third quarter points from Ty Lawson. Even the defending Western Conference Champion Spurs had to play to the final whistle to take out the young Suns that are either too inexperienced to know they are not supposed to be good or are too good for everyone to realize they are good.

It has only been two weeks, but still, this is a fun team that has played some great basketball this week.

Key Stat

8.4 Threes Per Game

This week the Suns are connecting on 8.4 three-pointers a game. On the season they are averaging 8.4 three-pointers a night giving them nearly 27 points from behind the arc, which is significant based on last season. Last year the team made 5.8 three-pointers a night, about 18 points a game, and with this years roster they are getting more from deep.

The team is shooting 35.9% from three this year, a good percentage, not elite, but good enough to allow them to balance the offense and be more opportunistic this season.

Quote of the Week

"I hold my athleticism in high regard. I think I am as athletic as anybody my size. He has his length and he is really impressive, but, tonight, I didn't even really know I had more. I guess I had more." Asked after the game how if felt to out-block Anthony Davis in the Sunday night game. Confident, but composed reply.

Bonus Quote from Miles: "It is a different look," after the win over New Orleans Plumlee celebrated with a black turtle-neck, which drew some critical reviews from teammates, but he kept his composure defending his style preference.

2014 NBA Draft Update

Or as I like to call this; Surrogate Watch. The Suns have four potential first round picks this year with the moves they have made this summer (and even with some help from Lance Blanks!) which is equally as entertaining to watch as the team in general this season.

College basketball has started meaning the players everyone has been speculating could don the purple and orange are on full display.

Here is a snapshot of the four picks today:

Indiana Pacers (7-0) -- No. 30 Overall -- Based on the rules of the trade this pick would go to the Suns. The prospect in that slot on my Big Board is Duke sophomore wing, Rodney Hood. In the season debut for Duke Hood played well, scored 22 points, and is an athletic lefty that has a lot of potential.

Phoenix Suns (5-2) -- T-No. 27 Overall -- This is the Suns pick, so in-turn, it is theirs to use as they please. Nevada senior point guard Deonte Burton is in this spot today. Burton is a strong, athletic point guard that is of similar build to Eric Bledsoe and is capable of making big plays above the rim and late in the shot-clock.

Minnesota Timberwolves (5-2) -- T-No. 27 Overall -- Based on the rules of the trade this pick would go to the Suns. Ironically there is another Kentucky Wildcat on the board here for the team in Alex Poythress, a former teammate of Archie Goodwin. Athletic forward, defensive oriented, and has the potential to be a two-way player on the perimeter.

Washington Wizards (2-4) -- T-No. 4 Overall -- Based on the rules of the trade this pick would remain in Washington and the Suns would not get the pick. A Top 5 pick in this years draft could mean a potential franchise changer and on the board at No. 4 is Dante Exum, a potential franchise changing combo guard from Australia.

Follow along with the 2014 NBA Draft as the season progresses.

News & Notes

A quick rundown of the different news worthy elements of the week and the week ahead:

  • Markieff Morris notched his career-high in points (28, against Denver), third most rebounds ever (12, at San Antonio), and the second most free-throw attempts (8, against Denver) this week.
  • Markieff is also the NBA's second leading scorer off of the bench, behind only Sacramento Kings point Guard Isaiah Thomas
  • Goran Dragic missed two games this week with an ankle injury, but returned at the end to play 30 minutes off the bench against New Orleans.
  • Gerald Green put together for the first time in his career five straight games of 10+ points doing so as a starter and a reserve.
  • Eric Bledsoe is the NBA's No. 2 scorer in the fourth quarter at 8.7 points per fourth quarter behind only Kevin Durant who is averaging 9.6 points per fourth quarter.

Suns History Lesson

This week in Suns history they did a lot of scoring. On November 14th, 1997 in a game played in Portland the Suns won 140-139 in quadruple overtime. This was, at the time, only the fourth game of that kind in NBA history and the first in over ten years. Here is proof that the game happened, the Suns were led by Danny Manning off the bench (35 points 10 rebounds) and Rex Chapman (28 points) while the Blazers had three players with 30+ point double-doubles in Brian Grant (34 points 17 rebounds), Isaiah Rider (35 points 11 rebounds), and Arvydas Sabonis (31 points 10 rebounds).

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, November 13th @ Portland Trail Blazers (4-2)

Friday, November 15th vs. Brooklyn Nets (2-4)

Only two games on tap this week, one on the road, and one at home. The Suns opened up the regular season against Portland and made them look undisciplined, lethargic, and not ready for the NBA season. That game was the widest margin of victory for the Suns this year (+13) and set the bench mark for the season. In that game the Blazers could not buy a three (8/26), getting nothing from their key reserve Mo WIlliams (1-9 FG), and relying 100% on the individual scoring of both Damian Lillard (32 points) and LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points).

That game was also played not only without the new Markieff Morris, but without Markieff at all as he was serving a one game suspension.

The Nets will bring interesting individual match-ups as their perimeter trio all have good size and the ability to take over a game offensively. Last year the Suns held Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in check (25 total points combined), but struggled with the Nets before they added the Celtic due losing both games by an average of 11.0 points per game. This is a different team with Jason Kidd as head coach and more balanced team across the board.

It will be another week of tests for the Suns. Can they handle playing two playoff caliber teams in the same week? Can they keep their heads out of the clouds as the bandwagon fills up? Will they be able to maintain this pace? All important questions that will be addressed this week in a vacuum.

No pair of brothers have scored in double figures in three consecutive NBA games before while playing for the same team, but that's exactly what twins Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris have done early this season.

The Morrii - Markieff and Marcus Morris - are playing better than they have every played in the NBA. They attribute a lot of it to getting a chance to play together - a dream of theirs all along.

"He's my twin brother," Markieff Morris says of how they play so well when paired on the court. "We're a team within a team."

While Marcus has always been who he is - a big small forward who can play any wing position - his brother Markieff has suffered a bit from an identity crisis while trying to do everything at the same time. But the Suns drafted a power forward and really need that guy to show up.

This year, Markieff Morris is changing his game. He is embracing the "power" part of being a power forward more than ever before and now he has the results to show for it. But he's not taking total credit for the play of the Suns. He's embraced coming off the bench with his brother, and with the second unit as a whole.

"We are defensive minded first. Offense second," he said about the second unit that contains his twin brother. To be sure the team as a whole is a very good defensive team, and Morris has his best 'defensive rating' of his young career. Both Morris brothers are also pulling down the highest rebounds rate of their careers so far, together totaling 17 per 36 minutes.

But it's the offense that's so exciting to see.

In past seasons, Markieff Morris would float around the perimeter on offense to open up the lane for drivers, but his perimeter shot was not always reliable and, in the words of his coach, would get in the way of the rest of the offense.

"We don't want those guys floating around the free throw line," Hornacek said before Friday's game of both Morris borthers. "We have two guards - Goran and Eric - who want to penetrate. So if you sit in that area, you're basically just clogging it up."

He said it's a learning process, and that Markieff is working on staying down low. During the first two weeks of the 2013-14 season, Morris has repositioned himself much closer to the basket to be available for dumpoffs from the guards or his fellow big men.

"Those guys will penetrate, they'll dish it off to you," he said of the message to Markieff. "You'll get just as many shots on the baseline as you would standing around the free throw line. And then they will be higher percentage shots, dunks, takes to the basket where you get fouled. I think he's trying to do what we ask. Sometimes he forgets and he floats back up there, but that's a process with all these guys."

Markieff is getting more free throws as a result, to the tune of 4.2 per game and almost double last year.

"Definitely. With Mark West, we watch a lot of film and we weren't getting a lot of free throw shots. We have worked in practice and before the games doing a lot of basket moves, fouling, and we try to finish through that."

But it's not just positioning and getting free throws that has improved Markieff Morris' game. He is finishing close shots like never before. In fact, no NBA player since Dwight Howard has shot 75% or better in three consecutive games on at least 12 attempts (courtesy of Paul Coro) until Markieff Morris accomplished that feat in the past three, shooting 11-13, 10-13 and 9-12.

For the season, just six games old for Markieff who was suspended in game one for elbowing a player in preseason, is a pure revelation.

He is shooting 64.9% on field goals overall, with most of those shots within 10 feet of the rim. It's early, for sure, but his play must be celebrated because THIS Markieff Morris is outplaying his draft position for the first time ever.

"A lot of times," Morris said of his comfort level with this team. "Coach is calling plays for me to get me involved in the game on the offensive end."

Not only is Markieff scoring the ball well, he's also a very good passer.

"Yeah, I'm the best passer," he said. "Playing with Marcus in the early years we passed the ball a lot to each other and I just developed a knack for it."

Coach Hornacek calls Markieff one of the best passers on the team, and the stats prove it.

While Markieff has always gotten 1-2 assists per game, he is also second on the team with 0.8 "secondary" assists per game - kind of like hockey assists, making the pass before the pass that got the open shot. Goran Dragic is first on the team (1.0) while brother Marcus Morris is third (0.7).

Markieff Morris is also good at making scoring passes that result in free throws. These are assists that don't count in the raw stats because the shot wasn't converted. Nevertheless, Morris is second on the team in "free throw assists" per game, with 0.6 a night.

"I love it," Tucker said of how the Morris twins are playing. "The twins have accepted coming off the bench, playing together. With Ish coming off the bench with them, the way he pushes the ball you're going to get looks. The team scores, he gets it right back on them and they don't even know the ball is coming. That whole [bench] lineup is tough."


Markieff Morris has been named the Western Conference Player of the Week. From the press release by the Suns.

Morris helped the Suns to a 3-1 week, which included wins over the Denver Nuggets and a home-and-away sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans. The third-year forward tied for seventh in the Western Conference in scoring (22.8 ppg), 14th in the Conference in rebounding (8.0 rpg), eighth in the Conference in steals (2.0 spg) and led the league in field goal percentage (.698). Morris closed the week with three straight outings in which he connected on .750 or better from the field (11-of-13, .846 on Nov. 6; 10-of-13, .769 on Nov. 8; 9-of-12, .750 on Nov. 10). At 5-2, the Suns are off to their best start since the 2009-10 season.

PHOENIX — Player development. It’s an overused few words that teams use to promote publicly that they’d like to promote players up the food chain from within. The new Phoenix Suns...

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The question was answered: When a Pelican comes to the desert.....

...some pretty rough basketball is played.

That is what happened between the Phoenix Suns (5-2) and the New Orleans Pelicans (3-4) in the teams second game in five nights. Early in the season the team spoiled the fans with exciting up-and-down basketball. This game they proved it is not how you start a game, but how you close it.

Normally the closer role is reserved for Eric Bledsoe, but tonight the Suns relied on plays from Markieff Morris, Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, Bledsoe, and an entire team effort in the forth quarter.

The game never got out of hand with the Suns biggest lead through three quarters only reaching eight and the Pelicans getting to four. It was a close game all-around until late when the Suns clung to a three point lead before separating it out for a (95-88) win.

Bledsoe turned it on late for the Suns scoring (7) of his 24 points late. He was the closer on the offensive end, but the credit for this win has to go to the interior defense in the fourth quarter of Miles Plumlee and Co.

There was no room for Anthony Davis or any of the Pelicans to make plays in the fourth quarter as Plumlee locked it down with four blocks. The swarming Suns defense was tremendous late only allowing a few rotation threes from Eric Gordon, but nothing inside the paint. The real story of this game was Markieff, again.

For a fourth straight game Markieff was on top of his game scoring 23 points and pulling down 5 rebounds. He was a go-to offensive player in the half court and led the way off the bench again.

Green stepped up with 12 points including a few spectacular dunks in this one. It was his fifth game in a row with double-digit scoring, a career best. Goran Dragic also returned to action scoring 12 points in 30 minutes off the bench. Can Dragic and Markieff become a bench duo?

The Suns are now 4-0 at home and have had a margin of victory of under 10 points in five of seven games. Up next is another rematch with the Portland Trail Blazers on the road on Wednesday night.

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