NBA: Philadelphia 76ers like Markelle Fultz first, Los Angeles Lakers eye Lonzo Ball as draft looms

The Philadelphia 76ers are likely to select Markelle Fultz, seen here playing for Washington Huskies on Dec 18, 2016, as their No. 1 NBA draft pick on Thursday.
The Philadelphia 76ers are likely to select Markelle Fultz, seen here playing for Washington Huskies on Dec 18, 2016, as their No. 1 NBA draft pick on Thursday.PHOTO: THE SEATTLE TIMES
NBA prospect Lonzo Ball, a 19-year point guard like Lonzo Ball, speaking with the media after a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers on June 7, 2017. They are poised to get him as the No. 2 draft pick.
NBA prospect Lonzo Ball, a 19-year point guard like Lonzo Ball, speaking with the media after a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers on June 7, 2017. They are poised to get him as the No. 2 draft pick.PHOTO: AFP

New York (AFP) - Markelle Fultz is expected to become the No. 1 pick in Thursday's National Basketball Association (NBA) draft after the Philadelphia 76ers swung a deal with the Boston Celtics for the top choice after watching his private workout.

The 19-year-old point guard, who played at the University of Washington last season, looks set to become the club's fourth top overall pick and join the Sixers ranks with 2016's first overall pick, Australian forward Ben Simmons.

Bryan Colangelo, the 76ers president of basketball operations, played coy about the pick even after swopping the first and third picks with Boston and giving up a future No. 1 pick to get the first choice of unclaimed talent.

"I feel that within the top 10, there are probably five or six sure-fire All-Stars. There may be one or two franchise-level players," he said.

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"On Thursday night, hopefully we make a decision that results in one of those franchise-level players being here."

Fultz averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals over 25 games last season for a Washington Huskies team who had nine wins to 22 losses.

He will join a young squad that features Simmons, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, Jahlil Okafor and 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year finalists Joel Embiid and Dario Saric.

That young core of talent could provide a base to rebuild the team.

Since 2003, the 76ers have won only one play-off series and they have had only one winning season since 2005.

The Sixers went 28-54 last season.

"We have a core of young players that will be significantly stronger once the draft selection is made," Colangelo said.

"We felt like we were in the right position to make a deal. We felt the value of adding the one pick now was the right thing at the expense of only losing one of four going forward."

Croatian forward Saric was asked on Twitter about the young group melding into a championship team and replied: "It will be hard but I hope with young team we got big chance to be dominant."

The Los Angeles Lakers have the second pick in the draft and are expected to select University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) standout Lonzo Ball.

The 19-year-old point guard had 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game for the UCLA Bruins last season.

No other US college player averaged 14 points with six rebounds and six assists a game as well.

Boston come back at third overall and will open the door for other talented playmakers like Josh Jackson, a shooting guard who scored 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals a game for Kansas last season.

De'Aaron Fox, a point guard who scored 39 points against a Ball-led UCLA in the national college tournament, is also among the top prospects.

The Phoenix Suns will select fourth, followed in order by the Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and the Kings again.