In this Feb. 18, 2017, file photo, Arizona’s Chance Comanche, right, defends as Washington’s Markelle Fultz’s (20) looks for a shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Seattle. Fultz is the likely No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night, June 22. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — Markelle Fultz is ready for the NBA draft. He’s already learned about life at the trade deadline.
During a dizzying few days of deals around the NBA, the presumed No. 1 pick had his Saturday plans — not to mention his future destination — change when the Philadelphia 76ers brought him in for a workout. They then completed a trade with the Boston Celtics and are expected to take the Washington guard to begin the action Thursday night.
And if the last few days are indication, what follows might be a wild night inside Barclays Center.
“It’s been a little crazy last couple days,” Duke forward Jayson Tatum said Wednesday.
Teams seem to have one eye on the draft and future stars like Fultz and Lonzo Ball, while the other is firmly focused on jockeying for proven veterans. Former and future No. 1 picks have already been dealt this week in what feels like the trade deadline, free agency and draft all rolled into one frenzy.
“It just shows you what the NBA is about. I mean, you can get traded in the blink of an eye, without knowing,” Fultz said. “It just shows you how this business is and like I said, I just go with the flow. I’ve got an opportunity to play basketball and that’s all I ask for.”
Though Fultz heads what’s widely regarded as a strong draft class, the young stars have had to share the spotlight this week with veterans who are — or could be — on the move. All-Stars and Olympic champions such as Paul George and Jimmy Butler are front and center in trade talk that usually isn’t this heavy until February. Dwight Howard was dealt and D’Angelo Russell — who just two years ago was on the same stage the players will walk Thursday as the No. 2 pick — was dealt by the Los Angeles Lakers, presumably to clear the point guard spot for Ball and salary cap space for the future.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of crazy things. They’ve been coming through my phone with the ESPN app,” Kentucky guard Malik Monk said.
“I knew right before the draft something crazy was going to happen. It happens almost every year, so I wasn’t shocked about it.”
Things are expected to settle down a bit for at least the first two picks. The 76ers, selecting first for the second straight year, should take Fultz before Magic Johnson takes Ball with the Lakers again in the No. 2 spot, which is exactly what the UCLA guard and his father, LaVar, want.
“It would mean a lot to play for my hometown and learn from the best point guard ever,” Ball said.
From there it could be Tatum, Josh Jackson of Kansas, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox or some other player in the mix at No. 3, where the Celtics will now pick after the deal with the 76ers. Celtics President Danny Ainge said after making the trade he thought he could get the player he wanted two spots lower.
“It’s a very loaded class and I feel like especially whichever guys go at the top four, five, there may not be that much separation between (them) because everybody’s just so talented,” Tatum said.
Many of them, as usual lately, are freshmen. A record 14 were taken in the first round of last year’s draft and that number should be threatened Thursday. The Sacramento Kings have two top-10 picks, while NBA champion Golden State and runner-up Cleveland have none in the first round.
Teams chasing those two squads may make up ground quickest with a veteran player they can only get through free agency or a trade, so that may have to wait until July.
But they should be able to find someone good Thursday.
“This, I think, has a chance to be a historic draft,” Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden said. “You look at the top end of the draft and I think there’s a chance that there’s going to be a lot of very good players, but it also runs deep into the late first round. I think that’s why there will be a lot of activity at this draft, because I think teams see potential to get a great player.”