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Suns' Watson, Booker play key roles for team on NBA draft lottery day

By - May 17, 2016

By Amanda Foster/For The Sporting Nation
PHOENIX -- Mixed emotions filled Talking Stick Resort Arena Tuesday evening as the Phoenix Suns hosted their 2016 NBA Draft Lottery viewing party with an anticipated audience of 4,000 people.

Although the event didn’t have quite as many people as expected, Phoenix fans still packed the house, filling the arena atrium with purple and orange hoping that the Suns would get the first overall pick for the first time ever.

It didn't happen, but the Suns walked away with the fourth and 13th overall picks. 

Host Casey Jacobsen, a former player and current broadcaster, set the mood for the evening as he invited fans on stage, played draft trivia questions and even had the Gorilla come out to get fans excited for what was in store.

The event consisted of multiple appearances from Suns players including guards Ronnie Price, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, as well as center Alan Williams. Newly hired head coach Earl Watson was also in attendance and spoke to the enthusiastic crowd. Both Watson and his players spoke to about what type of player they would like to see the team select in this year’s draft.

“We want players who are committed to winning, committed to community and to this team,” Watson said.

And when asked about who his favorite players are, he said, “My favorite college basketball players are the guys who will come here and help us win.”

Suns players have a particular attachment to the 36-year-old Watson, who retired from his 12-year NBA playing career in 2014. That made the decision to remove the interim tag from his title to the new head coach easy for Suns management. Players expressed confidence in his coaching style and believe it can take them all the way to the playoffs which would be their first appearance since the 2009-2010 season.
“With the foundation we have now…with Coach Watson, I think we have a playoff team now,” Ronnie Price said.

Before the big viewing kicked off, Knight spoke about what Watson does that will make their team different.

“He has brought the utmost respect…he’s honest and transparent and in this position you want someone who is honest…he still has confidence in us,” said Knight.  
It is clear that there are two top picks for this year’s draft -- LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram, both of which were on the Suns' top 16 players list for this year. Others include Kris Dunn of Providence and 2016 AP Player of the Year Denzel Valentine form Michigan State. With the Suns' 23-59 record this year, they had an 11.9 percent chance of getting the first pick in the draft but a 97.8 percent chance of getting two picks, as they had rights to the Washington Wizards’ first round pick if that selection fell outside the top nine.

The Suns sent second-year guard Devin Booker as their representative to New York City while in downtown Phoenix, fans gathered around the big screen to see if they would be lucky enough to get the first pick. As the 14th pick was called, excitement grew. Then, as expected, the Suns were called to get the 13th pick, inciting cheers throughout the crowd. As the countdown began to the top three overall picks, fans were disappointed when at number four they were called again. Although they weren’t chosen for the top three picks, fans still seem hopeful that Watson can lead this team to the postseason and beyond.

The 2016 NBA Draft which will be held on June 23rd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. 


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