Phoenix Suns: A look back at NBA Draft history before 2019

Photo by Ashlee Espinal/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Ashlee Espinal/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Phoenix Suns head into the 2019 NBA Draft with the sixth and 32nd overall picks. What does draft history tell us about those selections?

Despite being one of three teams tied for the best odds of winning the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns fell from third place to sixth in the draft lottery. Assuming they don’t trade the pick (which they absolutely should attempt to), there are a number of options to consider with their first round selection at No. 6 and their second-rounder at No. 32.

The question is, what does draft history — both for the Suns and the league at large — tell us about their chances of securing a useful, legitimate NBA player at either of those spots?

Starting with the sixth overall pick, the Suns have only selected from that spot once before, taking William Bedford in 1986. Bedford played a grand total of 50 games for Phoenix, averaging 6.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on 39.7 percent shooting in his rookie season. He didn’t play the entire 1988-89 season as he rehabbed from drug abuse and his NBA career only lasted six seasons.

Luckily, there have been quite a few success stories in NBA history with the sixth overall selection. The list of recognizable names is fairly extensive:

This, of course, is without even mentioning some of the NBA legends and Hall-of-Famers who came into the league through the No. 6 pick. Lenny Wilkens, a Hall of Fame member both as an NBA player and head coach, was the sixth overall pick in 1960. Adrian Dantley, a six-time All-Star and two-time NBA scoring leader, was the sixth selection in 1976.

The great Larry Bird, by all accounts one of the 10 greatest NBA players ever, was taken sixth overall in 1978. Brandon Roy, one of the most beloved Portland Trail Blazers of all time and lingering NBA “what-if,” was the No. 6 pick in 2006.

In recent draft history, Damian Lillard (2012), Marcus Smart (2014), Willie Cauley-Stein (2015), Buddy Hield (2016) and Jonathan Isaac (2017) were taken sixth overall as well.

Through the course of NBA Draft history, that No. 6 pick has accounted for:

  • 48 All-Star selections (spread among 14 players)
  • 17 All-NBA designations (Dantley, Bird, Roy and Lillard)
  • 4 Rookies of the Year (Dantley, Bird, Roy and Lillard)
  • 3 MVP awards (all Larry Bird)
  • 3 Hall-of-Famers (Wilkens, Dantley and Bird)

Lillard will likely add another All-NBA selection to the pile this year, and probably another Hall-of-Famer to the group by the time his career is over.

The success stories are encouraging, but not nearly as bountiful as one would expect from a top-six pick in a draft that dates back to 1950. In the 68 drafts since then, only 14 No. 6 overall picks have become All-Stars, and only four have earned All-NBA honors.

The 32nd overall pick is far less prestigious. The Suns have drafted from there three times before, taking Nick Vanos in 1985, Chad Gallagher in 1991 and Davon Reed in 2017.

Vanos played a total of 68 games over two years in the NBA, both of which came in Phoenix, averaging 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 12.4 minutes per game. His career was ended tragically in 1987 by a plane crash that killed him, his fiancee and 152 other passengers and crew.

Gallagher was drafted by the Suns, but never played a single game for the team. He played overseas in Spain and bounced around the G League before finally getting a shot at NBA action in 1994 with the Utah Jazz. That consisted of only two games, and his NBA career never extended beyond that.

Finally there’s Reed, the 3-and-D wing from Miami who was considered a reach at No. 32 since the Suns probably could’ve gotten him at No. 54 in that same draft. He struggled with a meniscus injury in his first season, ultimately averaging 3.0 points in 11.5 minutes per game over a total of 21 appearances. He was waived before the start of his second season to make room for Jamal Crawford, later joining the Indiana Pacers for the 2018-19 campaign and appearing in 10 games.

Throughout NBA Draft history, the only notable names that pop up at No. 32 are Bill Bridges (a three-time All-Star from the 1961 NBA Draft), Rashard Lewis (a two-time All-Star drafted in 1998) and Luke Walton (mostly known for his father, being a minimal role player for two title teams and then unsuccessfully coaching the Los Angeles Lakers).

A grand total of five All-Star selections have come from the 32nd overall pick (Bridges and Lewis), with zero All-NBA honors or Hall of Fame inductees. Recent 32nd overall picks include useful role players like Tomas Satoransky (2012), Montrezl Harrell (2015) and Ivica Zubac (2016).

Next. 30 greatest NBA Draft picks in league history. dark

Overall, the odds of snagging a quality NBA player at No. 32 are about the same as landing a franchise-altering talent at No. 6: decent if you draft well, but mostly, few and far between. We’ll see if the Phoenix Suns can prove to be the exception on June 20 if they keep their picks.