The Cleveland Cavaliers shook up the NBA world Thursday night when they selected former UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with their No. 1 pick, debunking numerous reports that the rebuilding club was torn between two injured centers or trading the pick away.
Overall the draft was a wild affair, with 13 trades worked out throughout the night.
Bennett was seen as one of the more polished and NBA-ready players in the draft. Standing at 6-foot-8 and a powerful 240 lbs., he already has a body built for the league. Teams were scared about the weight he had packed on while recovering from shoulder surgery, but Cleveland pushed that aside.
Fans can trust the Cavs judgment, especially when they consider how Cleveland spent its last two No. 1 selections on Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.
Cleveland wasn’t the only team to make some surprising and bold moves during the draft, and several teams ended up winners.
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The initial shock of trading all-star point guard Jrue Holiday has worn off. New GM Sam Hinkie traded away his best asset, and got a shot blocking machine in Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, who was originally picked by the New Orleans Pelicans.
While he won’t be ready until December at the earliest, there’s a reason Noel was atop most draft boards before he even played a college game. He has the potential to anchor the Sixers defense one day.
Michael Carter-Williams was the No. 11 pick, and he could fill the void left by Holiday. He has tremendous size at 6-foot-6 and equally impressive court vision.
Overall, the Sixers jump-started a rebuild with youth and cleared more than $40 million from their books.
Dallas wanted to clear cap space for Dwight Howard, but rather than achieving that goal the Mavericks instead landed a promising young floor leader.
Active throughout the night, Dallas made several trades but their best move was selecting Miami guard Shane Larkin at No. 13. He led the Hurricanes in scoring and assists in the program’s best season in history. Larkin also put up some of the best numbers during drills and measurements at the combine.
Portland found a running mate for Damian Lillard. The Blazers may have cemented their backcourt for the next 10 years with Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, viewed as one of the best shooters and pure scorers in the draft.
He might be under the radar to most fans, but many remember his incredible 30-point performance in Lehigh’s upset over Duke in the first round of the NCAA tourney last year.
Portland also picked up a solid rotation big man in Kansas’s Jeff Withey, and took a chance on Arizona forward Grant Jarrett, who only spent one year with the Wildcats. Jarrett is a project but his solid 6-foot-10 frame could fill out the Blazers bench well.
The Bennett pick was just as smart as it was surprising. He gives Cleveland a solid low-post presence, which could allow them to change pace from up-tempo to more of a half-court game at a moment’s notice.
The Cavs also picked up two talented shooters in Russian Sergey Karasev and Cal guard Allen Crabbe. Karasev already has experience against the world’s best, playing in the Olympics last year, and Crabbe averaged nearly 20 points a game and was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection this past season.
Other than Bennett, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk was the most skilled big man in the draft. He could fit in nicely and just accept pass after pass from Rajon Rondo down low.
However the draft really provided the Celtics ample time to complete their mega-deal with the Brooklyn Nets, ending the Boston careers of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Celtics fans may not like it, but the team got a head start in its rebuild by clearing some cap space, and gained three first round draft picks. Combine those with the pick Boston received from the L.A. Clippers as compensation for coach Doc Rivers, and Boston has four extra first round picks over the next five years.