The Latest on Thursday night’s NBA draft (all times local):
Luka Doncic won a championship on Tuesday. For Real Madrid. In Spain.
Two days later, he’s in the NBA.
The Slovenian teenager –considered one of the best prospects to come out of Europe– was picked No. 3 overall by the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night, amid reports that he would quickly be traded to Dallas for the No. 5 pick and a future first-round selection.
This marks the seventh time in the last 13 drafts that at least one player has gone in the top five and will be entering the NBA directly from an international team. Andrea Bargnani went No. 1 overall in 2006; the last top-five to come from an international roster was Dragan Bender, who went No. 4 to Phoenix in 2016.
The international touch on this draft is already pronounced, with No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton being born in the Bahamas.
Only eight years after playing basketball for the first time, Deandre Ayton is the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
The Phoenix Suns made the long-expected move official on Thursday night, taking the Arizona center with the top overall pick. He’s the first Arizona player to go No. 1 in the draft; Mike Bibby was No. 2 in 1998 and Derrick Williams was No. 2 in 2011.
It’s history for Ayton, and history for his homeland as well.
Ayton is just the second player born in the Bahamas to go No. 1, joining Mychal Thompson – the top pick in the 1978 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.
The 7-foot-1 Ayton, who didn’t start playing basketball until he was 12, averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game in his lone college season. He’s the ninth consecutive one-and-done player to be taken No. 1 overall.
The players in New York who were headed to the Green Room were individually introduced on stage before the draft officially started. They had their names announced, special accolades and where they are from. Parents also got to walk out with their sons.
Members of the Jr. NBA lined up to clap and cheer, creating a walkway for the draft prospects as they went to sit down at their respective tables.
This is the first time NBA has started the draft with an elaborate introduction.
Avery Johnson is back at Barclays Center, home of some turbulent times.
Draft night will be a celebratory one for the Alabama coach, who is seated at the green room table of star Crimson Tide point guard Collin Sexton.
Johnson was the Nets’ coach when they moved to Brooklyn in 2012 but was fired with a 14-14 record early in that first season shortly after they were blown out at home by Boston in a nationally televised Christmas Day game.
He eventually ended up at Alabama and coached here last season when the Crimson Tide played in the Barclays Center Classic. They finished their championship game loss to Minnesota with only three players following ejections after a near brawl. But the game showed how good Sexton was, as he scored 40 points to keep Alabama close in what became an 89-84 loss.
Blue and burgundy appear to be the colors of choice at this year’s draft.
The green room prospects have posed on stage for their traditional class photo and a few, including expected top-five picks Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic, are sporting traditional navy suits. A couple other players are going with much lighter shades of blue.
Trae Young, standing front and center and holding the ball in the photo, was one of the players in burgundy – and the only one not in slacks. He is wearing suit shorts, similar to what LeBron James wore to a couple NBA Finals games and Draymond Green donned for last year’s NBA Awards.
Even on NBA draft night, some people in Philadelphia are already thinking about free agency and the pursuit of LeBron James.
A plane is flying above Barclays Center carrying three banners. One has James’ No. 23 with a crown and the Liberty Bell, another urges him to “Strive for GOATNESS” and the last reads #PHILLYWANTSLEBRON.
Draft night had been the highlight of the 76ers’ year in their recent tanking seasons and large number of their fans made the short trip to Brooklyn to see who they would select with their high picks. But now the 76ers have moved from process to playoffs and are in position to add a major free agent to their core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Power Home Remodeling, a Philadelphia-based company, has become a James recruiter, originally setting up three billboards in Cleveland urging him to come to the city. The company also flew Thursday’s billboards in Brooklyn.
It could be a big night for big men in the NBA draft.
Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. and Texas center Mo Bamba are all expected to be high selections Thursday night in Brooklyn. All are 6-foot-10 or taller.
The Phoenix Suns have the No. 1 pick for the first time in franchise history and are expected to take the 7-foot-1 Ayton. They are followed by Sacramento, Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas.
Ayton, a native of the Bahamas, and Bagley were high school teammates for one season at Hillcrest Prep in Arizona.
There has been less emphasis on traditional centers in the NBA in recent years, but most of the top big-men prospects are versatile enough to play outside as well, making this the first time since 2007 that six players 6-10 or taller could go in the top 10.
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