The Butler deal came together just as all the trade speculation surrounding the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis fizzled out. By the time the first picks were being announced by Commissioner Adam Silver, it had become clear that Porzingis, the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft, was not going anywhere, at least for now.
As expected, two point guards were the first players selected. After the 76ers opted for Fultz, the Los Angeles Lakers took Lonzo Ball at No. 2.
Fultz, who is 6 feet 4 inches, averaged 23.2 points and 5.9 assists a game in his only season at Washington. “It’s unbelievable, really,” he said after his selection. “I get a chance to take care of my family, and I get to do something a lot of kids want to do. So I’m just very happy.”
Ball, whose outspoken father, LaVar, probably created more predraft buzz than any player, averaged 14.6 points and 7.6 assists as a freshman at U.C.L.A.
The Lakers created room for Ball this week by trading D’Angelo Russell, their starting point guard the past two seasons, to the Nets. Ball became the first pick made by the Lakers’ new front office, now led by Magic Johnson, one of the franchise’s iconic figures, and the former agent Rob Pelinka.
“There’s never going to be another Magic Johnson, so I’m trying to be myself,” Ball said. “But if I can come halfway short of him, you know it’s going to be good.”
The Celtics chose Jayson Tatum, a small forward from Duke, at No. 3. It was a selection that might have ended up with the Knicks had they come to an agreement on a deal with Boston for Porzingis. The two teams talked, but that was it.
The Phoenix Suns selected Josh Jackson, a small forward from Kansas, fourth. Then came Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, a guard, at No. 5 to the Sacramento Kings; Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, a forward, at No. 6 to the Orlando Magic; and Markkanen, who played at Arizona, at No. 7.
That meant that the draft began with the selection of seven consecutive one-and-done college freshmen.
The Knicks drafted at No. 8 and chose Frank Ntilikina, a 6-5, 18-year-old point guard from France. Ntilikina wore a maroon suit and a big smile as he shook hands with Silver.
Later, Ntilikina was asked what he would bring to the Knicks, who cannot seem to escape turmoil — the latest episode involving the 21-year old, 7-3 Porzingis and the apparent willingness of Phil Jackson, the team’s president, to trade him away despite his supersized talent.
“What I will bring to the Knicks — actually, a lot of hope,” Ntilikina said. “I think I’m a player who will trust the process, work hard and definitely try to be the best player I can be.”
In recent days, Porzingis had cast his giant shadow over just about everything connected to the draft after it seemed that Jackson might trade him if he could get sufficient assets in return.
Jackson rarely engaged with reporters over the past season, but on Wednesday night he appeared on MSG Network to confirm that he had been fielding calls from teams that wanted Porzingis. Jackson also said he was interested in hearing what they had to say.
The Celtics, who had the advantage of a deep roster of young players and a reservoir of draft picks extending into future seasons, emerged as perhaps the top suitor. But in the end, Jackson’s asking price for Porzingis — said to be two No. 1 picks along with a player or players now on the Celtics’ roster — appeared to be too high for Boston’s taste.
As for the Nets, New York’s other team, they used their two first-round picks on frontcourt options: Jarrett Allen, a 6-10 center from Texas, at No. 22, and Kyle Kuzma, a 6-9 forward from Utah, at No. 27.
The 76ers were able to relish a No. 1 pick that traveled a long and winding path before it landed in their hands. The pick originally belonged to the Nets, but it ended up with the Celtics as part of the ill-conceived deal that landed Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Brooklyn in 2014. On Monday, the Celtics traded that pick to the 76ers in exchange for the No. 3 slot and a future first-round pick.
The 76ers, after years of losing, have stocked their roster with young talent, including Ben Simmons, a 6-10 forward and guard who was the top player chosen in last year’s draft, and Joel Embiid, a 7-foot center selected third over all by Philadelphia in 2014.
Embiid missed his first two seasons because of injuries and appeared in just 31 games last season. b Simmons, too, has been hindered by injuries.
The hope within the organization is that both players are fully mended and capable of beginning to fulfill their enormous promise. The addition of Fultz will only heighten expectations among the team’s success-starved fans. The 76ers have already broken a franchise record for season-ticket sales.