Youth served with freshman dominating top picks in NBA draft
Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau hope to rekindle their past.
Fultz and Ball led a record-setting run of one-and-dones in the NBA draft, which received a jolt early in the first round when the Chicago Bulls traded Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Philadelphia 76ers took Fultz with the No. 1 pick and the Lakers followed by taking Ball, with the point guards from the Pac-12 Conference beginning a run of seven straight freshmen. Nine of the first 10 selections played just one season of college ball.
“Right now it’s unbelievable really,” Fultz said. “I mean, say you want to do something, and to go out and do it is unbelievable.”
Thibodeau has enough young players in Minnesota and wanted a veteran like he had during his successful run coaching the Bulls. He found one in Butler, who the Wolves acquired along with the 16th overall pick for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick, which ended up being — what else? — another freshman, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen of Finland.
While that was being completed, the draft got off to a familiar start with the same top-four picks as last year: Philadelphia, the Lakers, Boston and Phoenix.
Fultz averaged 23.2 points last season, tops among freshmen, and added 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game, the only Division I player to reach those stats. He walked across the stage Thursday at Barclays Center wearing orange sneakers made of basketballs.
The 76ers had the No. 1 pick for the second straight year after trading with the Boston Celtics on Monday. Now they add Fultz to a promising young core that includes Rookie of the Year finalists Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, plus Ben Simmons, the top pick from last year who sat out all season with a foot injury.
Fultz, who played just 25 games in college, said it was always his dream to be the top pick.