LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - The National Basketball Association's (NBA) lightweights got the message on Thursday (June 21): If you're going to compete with the heavyweights, you've got to get bigger.
The Phoenix Suns chose 2.1m Deandre Ayton of Arizona first overall and the Sacramento Kings selected 2.1m Marvin Bagley III of Duke second, starting a run on big men at the top of the 2018 NBA Draft. Ayton and Bagley are the tallest tandem of one-two picks since 2006.
In all, five of the first seven selections are 2.08m or taller, with the Memphis Grizzlies grabbing Michigan State's 2.1m Jaren Jackson Jr at No. 4, the Orlando Magic tabbing Texas' 2.1m Mo Bamba at No. 6, and the Chicago Bulls latching onto Duke's 2.08m Wendell Carter at No. 7.
The only non-big men among the top seven, coincidentally, were traded for one another when Dallas acquired 2.03m Slovenian Luka Doncic, picked third by the Atlanta Hawks, in exchange for high-scoring Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, selected fifth, and the Dallas Mavericks' 2019 first-round choice.
There was no surprise atop the draft, where Ayton will bring a sturdy, 117kg frame to the middle of a Suns defence that ranked last in the NBA in points allowed en route to the league's worst record during the 2017-18 season.
The 19-year-old ranked among the national leaders in rebounds (11.6 per game) and blocks (1.9 per game) last season as a one-and-done freshman.
A native of the Bahamas, Ayton will begin his professional career right around the block from where he attended Hillcrest Prep Academy before heading 160km down the road to Tucson, where he led the Arizona Wildcats to a 27-win season and as high as a No. 2 national ranking.
"The fans out there are amazing, the best fans in the world," Ayton said shortly after the announcement of the selection in New York.
"I'm really happy to be a Phoenix Sun and start a winning legacy with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson and all the other guys. We're a young team and we're ready."
The Cleveland Cavaliers made the most highly-anticipated selection of the lower lottery, using the eighth pick, which they acquired from the Boston Celtics (originally owned by the Brooklyn Nets) in the Kyrie Irving trade last August, on Alabama point guard Collin Sexton.
Sexton wasted little time going on the recruiting trail, sending a message to LeBron James to bypass free agency and return to the four-time defending Eastern Conference club.
"LeBron, let's do it,"Sexton pitched when given a chance on ESPN's national telecast of the draft. "I see you need a few pieces. Let's do it. Let's go back to the (NBA) Finals. Let's do it."
The New York Knicks took Kentucky forward Kevin Knox at No. 9, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers' selection of hometown product Mikal Bridges of national champion Villanova.
Bridges' career as a 76er was short-lived, however, as he was dealt to Phoenix for Texas Tech shooting guard Zhaire Smith, the No. 16 selection, and the Miami Heat's 2021 first-round pick.
The Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers swapped spots at Nos. 11 and 12, with the Clippers moving up one place to lock up Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Hornets got Michigan State forward Miles Bridges and two future second-round picks. The Clippers added a second new backcourt piece at No. 13, choosing Boston College shooting guard Jerome Robinson, before the Denver Nuggets completed the lottery by ending the slide of Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr.
Sidelined almost all of last season due to a back injury, Porter insisted the Nuggets will not regret making the selection. "I'm going to make sure this pick was the best this organisation has ever made," he boasted minutes after his long wait had ended.
"I'm just happy to be with a team that believes in me. I'm a winner, and I'm going to help this team win."
Like the Clippers, the Hawks completed what could be their backcourt of the future with the selection of sharpshooting Maryland guard Kevin Huerter at No. 19 to couple with new point guard Young.
The Huerter pick followed the selections of Oregon shooting guard Troy Brown by the Washington Wizards at No. 15, Smith by Phoenix (and dealt to Philadelphia) at No. 16, Villanova shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo by the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 17, and Miami shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV by the San Antonio Spurs at 18th.
Minnesota wrapped up the top 20 with the selection of Georgia Tech shooting guard Josh Okogie. The final 10 picks of the first round included a third selection from Duke (shooting guard Grayson Allen by the Utah Jazz at No. 21), the initial picks of the Eastern Conference finalists Boston Celtics (Texas A&M centre Robert Williams at No. 27) and the NBA champion Golden State Warriors (Cincinnati shooting guard Jacob Evans at No. 28), and a third member of Villanova's championship team (power forward Omari Spellman by Atlanta at No. 30).
Also selected in the bottom third of the first round were: Boise State forward Chandler Hutchison (22nd by Chicago), University of California Los Angeles point guard Aaron Holiday (23rd by the Indiana Pacers), IMG Academy point guard Anfernee Simons (24th by the Portland Trail Blazers), Michigan centre Moritz Wagner (25th by the Los Angeles Lakers), Wichita State guard Landry Shamet (26th by Philadelphia), and Bosnia & Herzegovina forward Dzanan Musa (29th by Brooklyn).
The second round featured fourth selections from Villanova (point guard Jalen Brunson to Dallas at No. 33) and Duke (shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. to Sacramento at No. 37), as well as third and fourth picks from Kentucky (forward Jarred Vanderbilt to Orlando at No. 41 and shooting guard Hamidou Diallo to Brooklyn at No. 45).
Trent, Vanderbilt and Diallo, in turn, were involved in three of the five trades made during the second round, with Trent going to Portland for two future second-round picks, Vanderbilt headed to Denver for Maryland forward Justin Jackson, selected 43rd, and a future second-rounder, and Diallo moving on to Charlotte for a future second-rounder.
Also working deals were Atlanta and Charlotte, with the Hornets receiving Kansas point guard Devonte' Graham, the No. 34 pick, in exchange for two future second-round picks, and Philadelphia and Detroit, with the Pistons getting Creighton shooting guard Khyri Thomas, the No. 38 pick, for two future second-rounders.
The 76ers turned out the lights on the evening with a popular selection: Dayton forward Kostas Antetokounmpo, brother of Milwaukee star Giannis, with the 60th and final pick.