With the Philadelphia 76ers now in possession of the No. 1 overall selection, Markelle Fultz has emerged as the clear favorite to be the first player taken in Thursday night’s NBA draft, perched at -5000 odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The 76ers all but sealed Fultz’s draft-night fate by pulling the trigger on a deal with Boston earlier this week that sent the No. 3 overall pick and a future first-round pick to the Celtics in exchange for the first-overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.
The Maryland native capped a successful high school basketball career by leading the United States to a gold medal victory at the 2016 FIBA Americas Under-18 championship, taking home tournament MVP honors.
A five-star college recruit, Fultz garnered All-American and All-Pac-12 honors in his only year of college basketball last season at Washington. The 19-year-old averaged 23.2 points per game for the Huskies, which marks the highest scoring average in the Pac-12 in over 20 years.
While Fultz’s NBA draft stock quietly has risen, Lonzo Ball has remained the focus of considerable pre-draft media attention. The 19-year-old exploded onto the college basketball scene with the UCLA Bruins last season, averaging 14.6 points per game to go along with 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game, making him an early candidate to be this year’s top pick.
Ball sits well back of Fultz as a +1200 bet to go first overall Thursday night. Should Philadelphia pass on Ball, the door opens for the hometown Los Angeles Lakers to take him with the No. 2 selection. The Lakers are the -260 favorites to select the 6-foot-6 point guard, with any other team taking Ball sporting +200 odds.
The only other player maintaining odds of being taken with the first selection in the 2017 NBA Draft is Jayson Tatum, who trails at a distant +5000. A two-time FIBA world champion, taking home gold with the United States U-17 and U-19 squads, Tatum played a key role in the Duke Blue Devils’ drive to the ACC Tournament championship last season.
The 6-foot-8 small forward averaged 16.8 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game in his only year at Duke, earning a selection to the 2017 ACC All-Freshman Team.
Thumbnail photo via James Snook/USA TODAY Sports Images
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