Zion Williamson is the prize. To win him, a team will be at the mercy of 1,001 ping pong balls.
The NBA Draft Lottery begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the Phoenix Suns can only hope luck lands them with their second consecutive first overall selection.
Special programming for the event will begin at 4 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station and ESPN 620 AM.
Last year, Phoenix entered the draft lottery with the worst record in the NBA the year prior and thus the best odds. The Suns won, then drafted center Deandre Ayton out of Arizona. This year, they tied for the second-worst mark in the league, but a reformed system meant to nip tanking in the bud still gives them the same best odds to land No. 1 as two other teams.
The New York Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns each have a 14% chance of winning the lottery and hold equal odds for every pick in the top four. Those three teams will each be assigned 140 of the possible 1,001 four-number combinations for the first pick.
Phoenix, however, has only the third most-favorable odds overall after finishing with more wins than New York and losing a tiebreaker against Cleveland, which also closed with a 19-63 record last season. The Suns can drop to the seventh slot in a worst-case scenario and Cleveland can only drop to sixth — the tiebreaker did not change the three teams’ already-equal odds in the top four.
The Knicks, Cavs and Suns each have a 47.9% chance of falling out of the top four.
The first four picks of the 2019 NBA Draft will be drawn based on the new lottery odds assigned to the 14 non-playoff teams, and the remaining 10 will fall into a default order based on worst-to-best record.
Ayton will represent Phoenix during the on-air lottery show, but by the time the telecast of the lottery begins at 5:30 p.m., it will have long been over. The actual drawing takes place in a secure room about an hour beforehand, witnessed by a representative from each of the 14 lottery clubs, NBA officials and some members of the media. None of them can leave or communicate with the outside world until after the results are announced on television.
Executive vice president and CFO Jim Pitman will represent the Suns in the behind-the-scenes lottery drawing.
If the Suns win another top selection, it would be the third time this decade a team has earned back-to-back first overall picks. The Philadelphia 76ers (2016-17) and Cleveland Cavaliers (2013-14) have most recently tipped off the draft in consecutive seasons.
While draftees like Ja Morant, a point guard from Murray State, and Duke’s R.J. Barrett are among the top-five prospects, the wide belief is that whichever team lands the No. 1 pick will not think too hard before selecting Williamson.
“Whatever NBA team I land on, that’s where I want to be,” Williamson said last month. “Whoever drafts me, that’s where I want to be.”
98.7 FM’s NBA Draft Lottery Special
Join 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday for our special programming before, during and after the event.
4 p.m. — NBA Draft Lottery Draft Panel with Burns & Gambo and Bickley & Marotta simulcast on 98.7 FM and ESPN 620
5 p.m. — ESPN’s lottery show begins on TV
5:30 p.m. — Lottery unveiling begins
6 p.m. — 98.7 FM will join the D-backs BP Show while an hour-long lottery reaction show with Tim Ring and Kellan Olson begins on ESPN 620
NBA Draft Lottery odds
The Associated Press contributed to this story