NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Philadelphia 76ers added to their youthful core with a versatile big man by taking Australian Ben Simmons from Louisiana State University with the first overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday.
The pick set the tone for a decidedly international night as a record 14 foreign-born players were selected in the first of the two-round draft at the Barclays Center, topping the previous record of 12 in 2013.
The 19-year-old forward, an excellent rebounder who thrives in transition as a scorer or passer, joins a Philadelphia team that finished last overall with a 10-71 record during the NBA’s 2015-16 season.
Simmons, who becomes just the second Australian to be taken with the top pick after the Utah Jazz selected Andrew Bogut in 2005, averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists for LSU in his only college season.
“It’s a weight off my chest,” said the 6-10, 240-pound Simmons, who was widely expected to go first overall.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while, so I‘m glad I’ve made history, not only for myself but my family and Australian basketball.”
The Los Angeles Lakers had the second pick, the first of their post-Kobe Bryant era, and took shooting guard Brandon Ingram from Duke University.
Ingram, a good passer and excellent three-point shooter at 6-9 with keen court awareness, scored 17.3 points a game for Duke along with 6.8 rebounds on average.
Asked about concerns that he needs to bulk up to compete in the NBA, Ingram said: ”I am only 18. The weight is going to come naturally. But I am focused on getting stronger right now.
“I have the inner strength that no one knows about and I am just continuing to get stronger each and every day.”
The Boston Celtics chose small forward Jaylen Brown of California third overall, while the Phoenix Suns used the fourth pick on Croatian power forward Dragan Bender, a 7-footer who has been playing for Ironi Ramat Gan in Israel.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who have four players under the age of 23 playing regularly, used the fifth pick on point guard Kris Dunn of Providence.
The New Orleans Pelicans made Bahamian shooting guard Buddy Hield of Oklahoma the sixth choice before the Denver Nuggets took Canadian Jamal Murray, who averaged 20 points for Kentucky, at No. 7.
Taken eighth by the Sacramento Kings was Marquese Chriss, a forward from Washington, with Jakob Poeltl, a center from Utah, going ninth to the Toronto Raptors as the first Austrian in the NBA.
Rounding out the top 10 was Sudanese-born Australian 7-footer Thon Maker, who has been playing at Canada’s Athlete Institute and was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks.
The international flavor carried on the rest of the first round with eight more foreign players selected among the 30 picks, not counting Domantas Sabonis, son of Lithuanian hoops great Arvydas Sabonis, who was born in the United States and taken 11th by Orlando.
Others selected were Georgios Papagiannis of Greece (13th-Phoenix); Spain’s Juan Hernangomez (15th-Denver); France’s Guerschon Yabusele (16th-Boston); Ante Zizic of Croatia (23rd-Boston); Timothe Luwawu of France (24th-Philadelphia); Turkey’s Furkan Korkmaz (26th-Philadelphia); Pascal Siakam of Cameroon (27-Toronto), and Haitian Skal Labissiere (28th-Phoenix).
Editing by Frank Pingue/Peter Rutherford