Ben Simmons has been taken by the Philadelphia 76ers as No.1 pick at the NBA Draft on a red-letter day for Australian basketball.
The 76ers, as expected, chose the 19-year-old from Melbourne first-up in Brooklyn, New York, on Thursday (Friday AEST), but the selection of giant centre Thon Maker as the No.10 pick to the Milwaukee Bucks was a surprise.
It’s the first time Australians have landed two spots in the top 10.
Simmons hugged his mother Julie and father Dave, an NBL great, after NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the selection inside the Barclays Center.
“It is a weight off my shoulders honestly,” he said.
“I’m relieved and happy to be a part of the organisation.”
The Los Angeles Lakers took Duke University forward Brandon Ingram with the second pick while Boston too forward Jaylen Brown third.
Simmons, who signed a $US20 million ($A26.30 million) endorsement deal with Nike and will earn $US15.42 million ($A20.27 million) over three years with the 76ers, faces a monumental task to turn Philadelphia around.
The 76ers were the worst team in the NBA last season with just 10 wins in 82 games – and did not fare much better the previous two years.
Pressure will be on Simmons to be the saviour, and he already has a close relationship with the coach, former Australian Boomers mentor Brett Brown.
“I think I can make an impact,” he said.
“It is going to take a lot of work and everyone has to be on board, but we have a young team and I’m looking forward to get there.
“I’ll get bumps and bruises but that comes with being a rookie. It will be a new experience for me.”
Club legend Allen Iverson, who was picked No.1 by the 76ers 20 years ago and went on to become an 11-time All-Star believes Simmons “can do it all” and “has a lot of young talent that can take us far”.
But he warned Philadelphia fans are passionate and will only accept him if he gives 100 per cent when he is on the floor.
“There’s going to be some ups, and there’s going to be some downs, but these people will stick with you through your ups and your downs,” Iverson said.
“I’m the perfect example.”
Simmons is the third Australian-born player drafted number one, with Bogut the top pick in 2005 and Kyrie Irving in 2011.
Maker’s early selection came as somewhat a surprise following reports just hours before the draft that some NBA teams ruled Maker out because they believed the 19-year-old could be aged 21 or 23.
The 216cm-tall centre was born in war-torn Sudan and, when he was five, his family fled and settled in Perth.
“It’s been a long time because I’ve put in a lot of games, a lot of work, and to finally see it pay off, really I’m lost (for) words,” he said.