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Henry Liao

NBA Draft: Fultz is No, 1, Ball is No. 2

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After acquiring four days earlier the No. 1 overall selection in this year?s National Basketball Association college/international draft from the Boston Celtics in exchange for their own No. 3 pick and another future first-rounder (2018 or 2019), the Philadelphia 76ers expectedly corralled University of Washington?s much-coveted freshman Markelle Fultz with the first pick during the annual college/international grag-bag at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York last June 22.

It was only the fourth time in franchise history that the 76ers got to make the first dance in the draft party, having also picked No. 1 in 1973 (Illinois State?s Doug Collins, a member of the ill-fated U.S. national team that dropped a controversial 51-50 verdict to the old Soviet Union in the gold-medal game of the 1972 Munich Olympics for the Americans? first ever Olympic defeat), 1996 (Georgetown?s Allen Iverson) and 2016 (Louisiana State?s Melbourne-born Ben Simmons).

The Sixers, who now have drafted first overall in the last two years, is the first team in NBA history to own a pair of rookie No. 1 overall picks on the same team as Simmons, last year?s selection, was sidelined for the entire 2016-17 wars due to a broken bone in his right foot he sustained in training camp. (In April 2017, it was reported that the 6-10 Simmons, who turns 21 on July 20, had grown two inches taller since being drafted to stand at 7 feet.)

Fultz, an athletic, high-scoring 6-4 playmaker, averaged a Pacific-12 Conference-best 23.2 points ? which was tops among freshmen and sixth highest among NCAA Division I players ? in his lone seasons with the woeful Huskies. A third-team All-America selection by the Associated Press, the 19-year-old Maryland-born Fultz also averaged 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds and shot 41.3 percent from three-point range.

Fultz?s selection marked the first time ever that both the top choices in the NBA and Women?s National Basketball Association (WNBA) drafts have come from the same school in the same academic year. The San Antonio Stars tabbed former Huskies standout, Kelsey Plum, a 5-8 guard who is the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I women?s basketball history, with the No. 1 overall choice in the 2017 WNBA draft. A 5-8 guard, the 22-year-old Plum is the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I women?s basketball history, with the No. 1 overall choice in the 2017 WNBA draft.

The Los Angeles Lakers, in the midst of a four losing and non-playoff seasons (27, 21, 17 and 26 victories), did secure much-publicized Lonzo Ball out of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with the No. 2 overall choice after speculations that the Hollywood City outfit would jettison the first-rounder in return for a veteran player such as the Indiana Pacers? Paul George, a native of Southern California who plans to exercise his early-termination option in 2018 and become an unrestricted free agent.

New Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin (Magic) Johnson was convinced that Ball was the right guy for the team following a second four hours-plus pre-draft workout in his dad LaVar?s palatial Chino Hills, California home on June 16, an individual workout that was witnessed by Johnson and new LA general manager Rob Pelinka on the Lakers? side and LaVar, trainer Darren Moore and agent Harrison Gaines on Ball?s side and included running hills (near their home), weightlifting and on-court drills.

Magic was impressed with Lonzo?s work ethic leadership skills. He believes the 6-6 point guard?s competitive fire fits the young Lakers team and that he is likely to flourish in Lakers coach Luke Walton?s up-tempo style.

Ball, who turns 20 in late October, topped the NCAA Division I in assists at 7.6 a game (breaking the Bruins? all-time record for most assists in a single season) and registered averages of 14.6 points (on shooting clips of .551 from the field and .412 from beyond the arc), 6.0 boards and 1.8 steals every time out in his lone season at Westwood.

Ball was named the Pac-12 Conference Freshman of the Year (over Fultz) and earned first-team AP All-America honors.

The Boston Celtics grabbed Duke frosh Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 draft pick. The 6-8 small forward normed 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 shot blocks per game with the Blue Devils.

At No. 4, the Phoenix Suns snared Kansas freshman Josh Jackson, a 6-8 small forward who made it to the AP All-America Third Team after contributing 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals for the Jayhawks.

The Sacramento Kings (following a swap of first-rounders with Philadelphia after the draft lottery) got Kentucky?s De?Aaron Fox with the No. 5 selection. A 6-4 point guard, Fox averaged 16.7 points with the wildcats and topped the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in assists at 4.6 an outing. Fox drilled in 39 points against UCLA in Kentucky?s third-round 86-75 victory during the 2017 NCAA tourney for an NCAA tournament freshman scoring record.

More on the 2017 NBA Draft next time.
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