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NBA Draft: 76ers take Fultz; Celts draft Duke's Tatum

The Sports Xchange

June 22. 2017 9:35PM
Jayson Tatum (Duke) is interviewed after being selected as the number three overall pick to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

NEW YORK — Markelle Fultz was once cut from the varsity team in high school and now he is the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

The Philadelphia 76ers selected Fultz with the top pick Thursday night at Barclays Center, doing so less than a week after acquiring the pick from the Boston Celtics.

The Los Angeles Lakers took UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick and the Boston Celtics took Jayson Tatum, a 6-8 forward from Duke.

Tatum, who just completed his freshman year, averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in 29 games for the Blue Devils.

Fultz, the former University of Washington point guard, averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 25 games in his only collegiate season. Fultz shot 47.6 percent from the field, made 41.3 percent of his 3-point attempts, reached double figures 24 times and set a school record for points by a freshman with 579.

The performance at Washington capped a meteoric rise on the amateur level for Fultz. Cut from the varsity team as a sophomore at DeMatha Catholic High School in 2013 because he was only 5-foot-9, Fultz dominated opponents on the junior varsity level then continued his stellar performances in his final two years at high school.

The Celtics had acquired the pick from the Brooklyn Nets in July 2013. The Celtics were looking to rebuild after six seasons with Kevin Garnett paired with Paul Pierce and the Nets were looking to win instantly in their second season in Brooklyn.

Neither side anticipated the deal would become so lopsided in favor of the Celtics but the Nets posted the league’s worst record last season, setting in motion the chain of events leading Fultz to become a 76er.

Fultz was all set to become a Celtic but on Monday the pick was officially dealt to Philadelphia. The deal was first reported on Saturday and when it was apparent the trade was going to occur, Fultz quickly worked out for the 76ers.

Now Fultz officially is a member of the 76ers and the latest young piece in a rebuilding plan dubbed by former GM Sam Hinkie as “the process.”

Last season, the 76ers held the top pick for the first time since drafting Hall of Famer Allen Iverson in 1996 and selected Ben Simmons. Simmons injured his foot in training camp and never played while the Sixers improved their win total by 18 games to 28.

After Fultz was picked, fellow freshman Ball was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the second pick. The Lakers used their third straight No. 2 pick on Ball, who averaged 14.6 points and led the nation with 7.6 assists in his only season at UCLA.

Ball was projected to be picked by the Lakers’ new front office of Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. It became even more apparent the Lakers were going to select him once D’Angelo Russell was traded to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez in a move that has not been officially announced.

Second-round Celtics picks

The Celtics had three second-round picks as well:

• At No. 37, the team got a nice surprise when Semi Ojeleye, 6-7, 235-pound small forward out of SMU was still available. Ojeleye is known for his offense.

• At No. 53, Boston took Kadeem Allen, a 6-3, 200-pound point guard out of Arizona, considered an excellent defender.

• With their final pick of the round at No. 56, the Celtics went with a last name that harkened back to the glory days of the 1980s. The team went with Jabari Bird, a 6-6 shooting guard from California, where he was a teammate of current Celtic Jaylen Brown.