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Henry Liao

NBA Draft: Is Fultz No. 1?

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It has never happened before in National Basketball Association (NBA) draft history but there could yet be a first in this year's point guard-stacked grab-bag at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on June 22 (June 23, 7:00 a.m., Manila time).

History will be made if the teams that own the first three overall selections in a draft trade away their first-round picks even before the draft proceedings commence.

In the past, there have been occasions wherein the team with the right to select first in an entire draft gave up the opportunity via a trade.

This year will follow that same route as the Boston Celtics, who owned the No. 1 selection in the entire draft, agreed in principle on June 17 to ship that pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the 76ers' own No. 3 overall choice plus the 2018 first-rounder that the Sixers had earlier obtained from the LA Lakers due to a pair of past trades ? the July 2012 deal that sent Phoenix?s Steve Nash to LAL, and the February 2015 three-way swap that jettisoned the Sixers? Michael Carter-Williams to Milwaukee, the Bucks? Brandon Knight to Phoenix and the Suns? top three-protected first-rounder via the Lakers to Philly).

That 2018 first-rounder is to be transported to the Celtics only if the Lakers? selection is not anywhere from No. 2 to No. 5 overall. Otherwise, the Sixers will send to the Celtics the 2019 first-rounder they had previously acquired from the Sacramento Kings.

While Boston owned the best regular record in the Eastern Conference at 53-29 and subsequently reached the conference final playoffs, the boys from Beantown got to make the first dance in the draft proceedings after winning the draft lottery utilizing Brooklyn?s first-round pick that was obtained in a trade four years ago.

The moribund Nets posted the NBA?s worst record during the 2016-17 regular wars at 20-62 and would have had the best chance to secure the No. 1 selection in the college/international draft. However, a July 12, 2013 trade with the Celtics changed the entire landscape.

Brooklyn shipped Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, three first-round draft choices and a second-round pick to Boston in return for a trio of past-their-prime stars in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry along with journeyman D.J. White.

Anent to the transaction, the Celtics owned the option to exchange first-rounders with Brooklyn this year and utilized it because of the Nets? porous regular performance.

With the No. 1 choice in the 2017 NBA draft, Philadelphia is expected to take the University of Washington's much-coveted 6-4 point guard Markelle Fultz.

An athletic, high-scoring playmaker, the Maryland-born Fultz, who turned 19 last month, averaged a Pacific-12 Conference-best and freshmen-leading 23.3 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds and shot 41.3 percent from three-point range in his only season with the Huskies, who, however, failed to make the NCAA playoffs due to a losing (9-22) record under coach Lorenzo Romar, a former NBA guard who was fired after 15 seasons at the helm.

The Lakers have the No. 2 selection but are not solid on taking UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the pick as they question the 6-6 Bruins star?s work ethic and unorthodox shooting form (for sure, it has nothing to do with his loud-mouthed and controversial dad).

While Ball is the front-running choice, El-Ay is also considering Kentucky point guard De?Aaron Fox and Kansas forward Josh Jackson (a third-team Associated Press All-American) at No. 2.

Ball, who turns 20 in late October, is a native Californian. He played prep ball back home and posted a triple-double average (23.9 points, 11.3 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game) as a senior for a 35-0, state champion Chino Hills High School team.

As a college frosh in 2016-17, Ball topped the NCAA Division I in assists at 7.6 a game (shattering the school record for most assists in a single season) and averaged 14.6 points (shooting .551 from the field, including .412 from trifecta land), 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals every time out for UCLA, which plays in the same conference as Fultz?s Washington Huskies.

The Bruins posted a 31-5 record this past campaign (after a frigid 15-17 mark in 2015-16) and reached the Sweet Sixteen of the 2017 NCAA tourney before dropping an 86-75 decision to Kentucky, which also has a top-five draft prospect in 6-4 Fox (who racked up 39 points against UCLA for an NCAA tournament freshman record).

The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year (over Fultz), Ball was awarded the Wayman Tisdale Award (named after the late former NBA player) by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) as the country?s top frosh and earned Associated Press All America First Team honors (in contrast, Fultz was a third-team AP All-American).

Despite Ball?s glowing credentials, the Lakers may yet trade the No. 2 pick overall for a veteran player, perhaps like Indiana swingman Paul George, The 6-8, 27-year-old George, who has spent his entire seven-year tenure with the Pacers, has a year left on his contract and could become an unrestricted free agent in July 2018. Last June 18, the California native told Pacers management that he will not re-sign with the club after next season and would prefer to hook up with the LA Lakers once free agency comes.

This development could force the hand of the Pacers this early, maybe not even needing to wait until next February?s deadline or worse, after the 2017-18 wars when Indiana won?t receive any compensation once George tests the free-agent market.

Early this week, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were dethroned as NBA titlist by Golden State this month following a 4-1 loss to the Warriors in the Finals, were also approached by the Pacers in a potential George deal.

Boston, which now has the No. 3 selection, may yet settle for Jackson or another small forward in Duke?s 6-8 freshman Jayson Tatum, if not again trade it away for a future first-rounder or a veteran player.

If this scenario plays out, it will mark the first time ever that picks 1, 2 and 3 are traded away even before the draft starts.

At no time in NBA draft history have the first two overall picks been surrendered via a trade at the same time.

The first-round order in the 2017 NBA draft after the first three selections (assuming there are no more trades leading to the draft) is as follows: 4-Phoenix, 5-Sacramento, 6-Orlando, 7-Minnesota, 8-New York, 9-Dallas, 10-Sacramento, 11-Charlotte, 12-Detroit, 13-Denver, 14-Miami, 15-Portland, 16-Chicago, 17-Milwaukee, 18-Indiana, 19-Atlanta, 20-Portland, 21-Oklahoma City, 22-Brooklyn, 23-Toronto, 24-Utah, 25-Orlando, 26-Portland, 27-Brooklyn, 28-LA Lakers, 29-San Antonio and 30-Utah.
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