Bulls hit reset button with Butler trade; Fultz is no. 1

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NEW YORK—The Minnesota Timberwolves swung a deal with the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler on Thursday, reuniting the former first round NBA draft pick with his former coach Tom Thibodeau.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the trade during the 2017 entry draft.

Butler was dealt for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the rights to Finland’s Lauri Markkanen. Also going to Minnesota are the rights to Justin Patton, who was picked at No. 16 by the Bulls.

In 2011, Butler was the 30th overall pick by the Bulls. He averaged a career-high 23.9 points last season as the Bulls were 41-41 and qualified for the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Thibodeau coached Butler from 2011 to 2015. He joined the Timberwolves last season with the titles of coach and head of basketball operations.

By obtaining Butler, the Timberwolves are taking on the final three seasons of the $95 million deal he signed after the 2014-15 season.

LaVine is coming off a torn ACL. Before getting hurt, LaVine shot 46 percent and averaged a career-high 18.9 points per game.

Markkanen averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in his only season of US college basketball at Arizona.

Meanwhile, Markelle Fultz is a self-described hard worker and that diligence paid dividends Thursday as the Philadelphia 76ers made him the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA entry draft.

The 76ers acquired the top pick in a trade with the Boston Celtics a week ago, allowing them to move up and select the 19-year-old American.

“I figured out I had a chance to make it there [the NBA] probably in my 11th grade,” said Fultz, who played for the University of Washington Huskies last season. “I just realized that I was doing stuff that other kids weren’t doing and it just started to work out for me.” 

Markelle Fultz, selected number one overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, talks with the media at the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. AFP

The Los Angeles Lakers used the second pick to choose University of California at Los Angeles point guard Lonzo Ball.

The choice of Fultz fits in nicely with Philadelphia’s rebuilding program.

“I’m very excited really, just like the fans in Philly, how they back up their players and everything like that,” Fultz said. “And I’m just looking forward to going in there and giving it my all and hopefully changing the program around.”

This was one of the youngest drafts in league history as a record 16 freshmen—or first year American college players—were selected in the first round.

The 19-year-old Fultz, who is the club’s fourth top overall pick, averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals over 25 games last season for a Huskies team that was 9-22.

He joins a young squad that features Australian forward Ben Simmons, another top draft pick 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 is expected to provide a base to rebuild the team and if Fultz, Simmons and Embiid can stay healthy they could evolve into a solid big three.

Since 2003, the 76ers have won only one playoff series, and they have only one winning season since 2005. The Sixers went 28-54 last season. 

The 19-year-old Ball 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 university player averaged 14 points with six rebounds and six assists a game as well.

– Embiid tweets trash –

Embiid fired the first salvo between the new-look 76ers and Lakers on Thursday night telling him teammate Simmons through social media to dunk on Ball.

“Please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him,” Embiid tweeted in reference to Ball’s father, LaVar, who does most of the talking off the court for his son.

The Lakers used their third straight number two pick on Ball.

Ball was projected to be picked by the Lakers’ new front office of Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. 

Ball’s father, LaVar, put on his Lakers hat even before the pick became official.  

The Celtics used the third pick on Duke’s Jayson Tatum. The Suns picked fourth for the second straight year and selected Josh Jackson from Kansas. In his only season in college, Jackson averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds.  

Sacramento was the only team with two lottery picks. The Kings’ first pick at number five was guard De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky and they selected Zach Collins of Gonzaga at No. 10 with the pick obtained from New Orleans for DeMarcus Cousins. 

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