NEW YORK (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers selected Kentucky forward Julius Randle with the seventh pick in the NBA draft on Thursday.
The Lakers began their rebuilding process from their worst season in more than 50 years by choosing Randle, the 6-foot-9 power forward with impressive physical skills and relentless rebounding prowess.
Randle was the SEC’s freshman of the year while helping the Wildcats to the NCAA championship game. He had 24 games with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds, the second-most by a freshman in Division I history.
Randle had an individual workout with the Lakers’ front office earlier this month, saying he would love to be selected by the 16-time champions. Randle also squashed injury concerns about his previously broken right foot, saying he doesn’t need surgery.
Los Angeles still hasn’t hired a coach to replace Mike D’Antoni, who resigned after the season.
Andrew Wiggins of Kansas was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The Cavs went for a freshman from Canada to open the draft for the second straight year and hope Wiggins works out better than Anthony Bennett.
Bennett was injured last summer, came into the season out of shape and made no impact, one of the reasons the Cavs were back in this spot again.
But Wiggins seems a much more ready product after averaging a Kansas freshman-record 17.1 points. He might have ended up as the top pick anyway, but became the best option for the Cavs when Jayhawks teammate Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot shortly before the draft.
“A thousand thoughts are going through my head right now,” Wiggins said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Wearing a black tuxedo jacket with a white floral pattern, the guard slipped on a maroon Cleveland hat, hugged his supporters and went on stage to shake hands with Commissioner Adam Silver, who was calling the first round for the first time since replacing David Stern.
Milwaukee followed with another freshman, Duke forward Jabari Parker, who on Wednesday disputed that he was out of shape for his workout with Cleveland and performed poorly. Some consider him the more NBA-ready player after an All-American season for the Blue Devils, and getting to play in Milwaukee puts him near his family in Chicago.
“I’m just very optimistic,” Parker said. “If it was 1, 2, put me at 60, just getting that opportunity, getting that chance of being in the NBA.”
Embiid went third to Philadelphia, drawing loud cheers from the many red-and-blue dressed 76ers fans who made the trip to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as well as from Philadelphia guard Michael Carter-Williams, last season’s Rookie of the Year who was sitting on the arena floor level.
The 76ers had two top-10 picks and could afford to take a chance on Embiid, the big man who may have ended up the top prize despite his lone season at Kansas ending early because of a bad back. But once the foot injury popped up during workouts, leaving his NBA debut uncertain after surgery, the two teams at the top passed.
“He worked so hard,” Wiggins said. “He didn’t let nothing get to him. He always stayed motivated. So I’m just proud. It’s a proud moment for Kansas.
Arizona forward Aaron Gordon went fourth to Orlando, which also had two picks in the lottery, followed by Australian guard Dante Exum to Utah.
Then came two teams not used to picking so high: The Boston Celtics took Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, with the rival Lakers following at No. 7 with Randle.
The draft squeezed itself into the free agency frenzy that kicked off Monday, when Carmelo Anthony informed the New York Knicks he would become a free agent. LeBron James did the same the next day in Miami, and moves around the league since then appeared to be made with the pursuit of them in mind.
If James is interested in returning to Cleveland, a new teammate would be glad to welcome him.
“I want to win,” Wiggins said. “If he wants to win, we’d be good together.”
The 76ers took point guard Elfrid Payton of Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 10 with their second pick — they went into the draft with seven overall in the two rounds — and Orlando grabbed Croatian forward Dario Saric with its other lottery pick at No. 12. The teams reportedly agreed to trade the picks with Philladelphia also getting a future draft pick from the Magic.
In between, Denver took Creighton’s Doug McDermott, but the scoring star was already bracing for a reported trade to Chicago, asking officials if he was supposed to keep wearing the Nuggets hat. He was told he was until the deal was made.
Kentucky’s James Young went to the Celtics with the 17th pick of the NBA draft.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound swingman was the Celtics’ second pick in the first round. Boston obtained the 17th pick in a blockbuster deal in July with Brooklyn. The Nets also sent their first-round picks in 2016 and 2018 to the Celtics.
As a freshman last season, the 18-year-old Young was second on Kentucky with 14.3 points per game. He hit 40.7 percent of his shots and 34.9 percent from 3-point range. He led Kentucky with 20 points and seven rebounds in the team’s loss to Connecticut in the NCAA championship game.