NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Philadelphia 76ers selected University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday, launching an infusion of talented youth into the league.
The first seven picks of the draft entered as college freshman and 18-year-old Frenchman Frank Ntilikina was taken by the New York Knicks with the eighth choice.
The first player taken who had spent a sophomore year in college was 12th pick Luke Kennard of Duke, taken by Detroit. A record 16 freshman were selected in the first round.
First-pick Fultz bolstered the 76ers young core as a 19-year-old playmaker.
Philadelphia went all out to get their man, trading their third overall pick plus a future first-round pick to the Boston Celtics to secure the Maryland native.
Known for his all around offensive ability and athleticism, Fultz starred in his lone year at the University of Washington, averaging 23 points per game, along with more than five rebounds and five assists.
“It was unbelievable, really,” said Fultz when asked about the feeling of crossing the stage after being announced as top pick. “It was something out of a dream.”
The 6-foot-4 (1.93 m) guard became the second consecutive number one overall pick by Philadelphia, following forward Ben Simmons last year.
Fultz, Simmons and another recent Sixers high draft pick, Joel Embiid, form a promising young trio that could allow Philadelphia to rise from the lower depths of the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers used the second pick to select homegrown guard Lonzo Ball of UCLA, who led college basketball in assists.
At 6-foot-6 (1.98 m), Ball plays a style that harkens back to the ‘Showtime’ days of the Lakers, dishing off no-look passes, launching threes and finishing at the hoop with rim-jarring slam dunks.
Ball became the first high-profile draftee under the regime of new Lakers head of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
“It’s crazy, I couldn’t ask for anything more, to be able to learn from (Johnson) every day is truly a blessing,” Ball said.
Boston, the first team to trade the number one pick before or during the first round of the draft in 24 years, used the third overall pick to add small forward Jayson Tatum of Duke, one of the most polished scorers in college basketball.
Phoenix selected versatile forward Josh Jackson from Kansas with the fourth choice before ultra quick point guard De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky was snapped up by the Sacramento Kings.
“Speed kills and you can’t teach it,” said Fox.
With the seventh pick the Minnesota Timberwolves claimed Lauri Markkanen of Finland, who played college ball at Arizona, but the Finn will be headed to Chicago as part of a big trade for All-Star guard Jimmy Butler.
After the Knicks selected promising French guard Ntilikina, who is flying right back to Strausbourg to help his club try to win their league championship, two other international players were taken in the first round.
Briton OG Anunoby was taken 23rd overall by the Toronto Raptors, becoming the highest drafted English player, and Anžejs Pasečņiks of Latvia was selected 25th overall by the Orlando Magic.
additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Frank Pingue/Peter Rutherford