NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 23: NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks at the podium during the 2011 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center on June 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The Suns chose their current path in mid-February. They could have been in line for an impact player in the NBA Draft.
In the long and storied history of the Phoenix Suns four dates stand out. Don't worry, this plays right into today's dramatic NBA Draft Lottery and why the Suns are where they are at today. The team has been a model of consistency for 44 years making the playoffs 29 times. Efficiency defined.
The first date was the ill-fated coin flip on March 19, 1969. On that night tails meant Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabar) and heads meant Neal Walk. The addition of Walk was good for the Suns as he averaged 14.7 PPG and 8.9 RPG in 408 games over five seasons.
When the Suns moved on from him they made the NBA Finals just two years later. The series was decided on June 4, 1976 after a ferociously competitive triple-overtime thriller of a loss to the eventual Champion Boston Celtics.
Both of those dates held the team back.
The third date happened on June 30, 1993. Another trip to the NBA Finals and another heart wrenching ending as the Chicago Bulls became Champions.
And finally, there is the fourth date, which happens to be a very recent one. It was not a special day - no coin flip or Championship at stake - but on February 17, 2012 the Suns made a franchise altering decision. The weather was pretty normal that day, cool and calm, but something was in air. That something was the decision that loyalty and therefore mediocrity were more important than winning.
On that date the team was mired in a four-game losing streak heading home from a loss to the rival Los Angeles Lakers only to face them again for retribution. That trip home should have been full of conversation revolving around trade scenarios and a rebuild process focused on the best collection of lottery talent in about nine years.
At that point the team was 12-17 coming home from a tough loss to the Lakers showing that both teams were obviously on different sides of the talent spectrum. There was 48 hours before the next game giving management plenty of time to think about the obvious. The team held the eighth worst record in the NBA and did not look like a Playoff team.
The teams above them on that night were Charlotte, Detroit, New Jersey, New Orleans, Sacramento, Toronto, and Washington. If Phoenix maintained their pace (38.7%) they would have the ninth spot (1.7% odds) in the NBA Draft Lottery. Who knows, they might have not won another nine games the rest of the season without the likes of Steve Nash and Grant Hill giving them the second or third worst record in the NBA.
Whether it is a difference of four spots or 11 spots in the draft, they are both much better options than being at No. 13 Overall. The team has been here before. This is the area of the draft that usually has few impact players and is still a little high to reach on a player the team may really covet.
A lot of "What If's" with those recent picks and with the team's decision in February to try and grasp onto the hope for a few more home games as the eight seed. In the moment that may have felt right, but it will not at Wednesday night's Draft Lottery.
Management's choice to sit on their collective hands and go down this path led to where they are today. Those are the types of picks that show the mediocrity the team has slipped into over the past four years. This year is no different. Now the team must sit back, calm and happy to be there, as their 0.6% chance at winning the lottery might as well be 0.0%.
You can get more Suns coverage at Bright Side of the Sun.