The ping pong balls didn’t fall the Phoenix Suns’ way on Tuesday night.
But while the team landed at No. 6 in the newly formatted 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, missing out on the likes of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, the Suns were a lot closer than it appeared to taking the No. 1 pick for a second straight year.
“It wasn’t meant to be last night,” Suns CFO Jim Pitman told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Wednesday. “The way it worked out was actually eerily similar to last year with the three first balls coming up being useful to us and the fourth ball needing to be a certain number.
“If it had come up with the number two, we would have had the first pick. … This year we needed the number two, and unfortunately instead of two, it was 13 and then Alvin Gentry was jumping for joy in that room and the rest of us were not.”
Pitman, who said he was not superstitious, even wore the same suit from last year’s draft to try to turn the tide in the team’s favor but to no avail. The New Orleans Pelicans ended up with the top spot.
To make matters worse, the Suns were leapfrogged by the Pelicans, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers, three teams not projected to get into the top four at the start of the evening.
The Lakers can thank Memphis for their better spot in the sweepstakes.
“Memphis already won the fourth pick after they had already won the second, so they had to put the balls in for a fifth go and that’s when the Lakers’ numbers came up,” Pitman said. “It was a little surreal to see the lower probability teams seemed to jump up and like I said the New Orleans folks were clearly ecstatic all night.”
This season, the three teams atop the lottery had the same odds to earn the first through fourth picks in an effort to limit potential tanking. Of those teams, the Suns had the worst overall odds as they had the possibility of dropping to seventh. Under the new system, the 14 lottery teams all had more balanced odds compared to the old method.
Pitman issued his thoughts on the change.
“I think the consensus was that it did work for the league,” Pitman said of the new draft format. “Everyone in the room was talking about that even though the probabilities for those who did end up winning weren’t that much greater than they would have been otherwise. It did just flatten out everybody else and I think that is good for the league.
“Tanking, so to speak, is not a great thing. Sometimes you have don’t have the talent to win and sometimes you have the talent and the talent doesn’t play. There is a difference.”
But even with missing out on the top five picks this season, Pitman is confident the team can claw its way out of the lottery.
“We’re not going to be in [the lottery] again, this is it,” Pitman said.