NEW YORK – College freshmen were selected 1-2-3-4-5 in Thursday’s NBA Draft, marking the first time in draft history that that has happened.
The Philadelphia 76ers took Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick, the Los Angeles Lakers selected UCLA guard Lonzo Ball at No. 2 and the Boston Celtics drafted Duke’s Jayson Tatum with the third pick.
At No. 4, the Phoenix Suns took Kansas’ Josh Jackson, and at No. 5, the Sacramento Kings selected Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox.
As many as 20 freshmen were expected to be selected in the draft, including as many as 16 in the first round. The league set a record last season when 14 freshmen were selected in the first and second rounds and 13 freshmen were selected in 2015.
Gonzaga’s Zach Collins was a top-30 recruit as a high school senior in 2016 and was not a projected 2017 first-round pick one year ago. Even late during his freshman season at Gonzaga, Collins planned on returning to college for his sophomore season, but he had a great NCAA tournament and turned into a projected first-rounder.
“When I got to Gonzaga for that first summer session, I wasn’t a one-and-done player,” Collins said. “The way they put in the time with their players to develop them, I don’t think it’s matched. I can’t speak for other schools, but the way they did it at Gonzaga was so special. You really had no choice but to get better because they were so enthusiastic about it – that whole year, them developing me and my whole game, the mental side too.”
In the 2014 draft, the first four picks were freshmen, and in 2008, four of the first five were one-and-dones. But this is different. Based on potential and valuable rookie contracts, teams also don’t believe they can pass on that combination.
It puts a spotlight on the league’s one-and-done rule, which allows players to leave college for the NBA after their freshmen season.
Photos: 2017 NBA Draft
At the NBA Finals earlier this month, Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the issue, saying the one-and-done rule isn’t working out for the league or college teams. He acknowledged he was open to exploring better options.
“When we first changed the minimum age from 18 to 19, the following year in 2006 we had two one-and-done players,” Silver said. “So my sense is it’s not working for anyone. It’s not working certainly from the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from. They’re not happy with the current system.
“And I know our teams aren’t happy either in part because they don’t necessarily think that the players are coming into the league are getting the kind of training that they would expect to see among top draft picks in the league.”
Silver said he will explore solutions to “see if we can come up with a better system.” He said those conversations will occur with several interested parties: college coaches and athletic directors, NBA coaches and executives and the National Basketball Players Association (players’ union).
“I’m not standing here today saying I have the perfect solution,” Silver said.
The league at one point wanted to raise the age from 19 to 20, and the players’ union wanted to lower the age limit to 18, creating an environment where high school seniors are eligible for the draft. The 2005 draft was the last time high schoolers could enter the draft.
Silver said he was willing to explore several ideas, including a return to players going from high school to the NBA.
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