NEW YORK — Canadian forward Anthony Bennett of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, setting the tone for a surprising NBA Draft on Thursday.
Bennett, a versatile 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as a freshman last season, jumped over touted centers Nerlens Noel of Kentucky and Ukrainian Alex Len of Maryland to land as top pick by the Cavs.
Injuries to Noel (knee) and Len (foot) and others clouded the picture in a draft that was without a consensus number one choice, and Bennett himself landed with the 24-58 Cavaliers despite undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of his season.
“I’m just as surprised as everybody else,” Bennett told reporters at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.
Athletic guard Victor Oladipo of Indiana was taken with the second pick of the first round by the Orland Magic, and the Washington Wizards followed by claiming forward Otto Porter, who played for nearby Georgetown University, third overall.
“Surreal feeling, man,’ said Oladipo. “I’ve been watching this draft pretty much all my life, and to actually be a part of it and to actually be the No. 2 pick in this draft is truly a blessing.”
The Charlotte Hornets tabbed Indiana center Cody Zeller with the fourth pick before Len was scooped up by the Phoenix Suns and Noel went to the New Orleans Pelicans with the next two picks.
Trade rumors, however, swirled over the proceedings and several players were expected to land with teams other than the ones that selected them.
Trades had not as yet been made official during the early part of the draft at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, adding to the suspense.
After the top 10 choices were distributed there was a rush toward international players in the draft.
New Zealander Steven Adams out of the University of Pittsburgh was taken with the 12th pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA finalists in 2012.
Poised to become just the third Kiwi to play in the NBA, the 7-foot Adams from Rotorua was a freshman at Pittsburgh and ranked first on the team in rebounds with 6.3 a game and blocks (2.0 average) while averaging 7.2 points.
Three picks later the Milwaukee Bucks claimed forward Giannis Adetokunbo out of Filathlitikos AO of Greece, a 6-9 forward who at 18 was the youngest player available in the draft.
The Boston Celtics used the 16th pick to take Brazilian Lucas Nogueira, a center from Estudiantes (Spain), and then traded him to the Atlanta Hawks, who followed by selecting guard Dennis Schroeder of Phantoms Braunschweig of Germany.