Cavaliers select UNLV's Bennett No. 1 in draft

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 27, 2013 at 11:23 pm •  Published: June 27, 2013
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — There was already plenty of drama and suspense leading into this year's NBA draft.

The Cavaliers opened it with a shocking surprise.

Keeping their pick a closely guarded secret until the last minute, the Cavs stunned experts — and their fans — by selecting UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall selection in the NBA draft.

It was the third straight year Cavs general manager Chris Grant went outside the box in the first round. Two years ago, Cleveland took forward Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick — after taking guard Kyrie Irving first — and selected guard Dion Waiters in the same spot a year ago.

With speculation centered on them likely taking either Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Maryland's Alex Len, the Cavs nabbed the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Bennett, who averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in one season for the Runnin' Rebels.

Sitting at a table with family members in New York, Bennett was caught off guard when commissioner David Stern called his name.

"I'm just as surprised as everybody else," Bennett said.

Grant said the team whittled its list of potential candidates down to a "couple guys" by late Wednesday and finalized their decision to take Bennett following a Thursday morning meeting.

"He was one of those guys when you walked out of the gym when you saw him play, you kind of went 'Wow,'" Grant said. "He just does things you don't see other people do, so he was always a guy highly in our mix throughout the entire season."

Bennett, the first Canadian player taken with the top pick, was considered a longshot to land with Cleveland, and was rarely mentioned as a possibility in the days leading up to the draft. But the Cavs liked his skills, athleticism and potential.

"He's got a chance to grow in a lot of different areas," Grant said.

Grant said the Cavs listened to trade offers for the pick since winning the lottery on May 21, and seemed intent on dealing it. But unable to find a partner or suitable offer, Cleveland passed on big men Noel and Len, who are both recovering from injuries, and took Bennett.

Grant said the Cavs strongly considered Noel and Len "up until the last two or three days."

Bennett, too, is rehabbing after undergoing surgery on a torn left rotator cuff in his shoulder. But the injury didn't scare off the Cavs, who are determined to get back to the playoffs after losing 58 games last season and firing coach Byron Scott.

Bennett said he's lifting weights and should be able to play by August. He also dismissed reports that his weight has ballooned by over 25 pounds while he's been recovering. He said he's gained about 15.

Cleveland coach Mike Brown, rehired by owner Dan Gilbert after he was fired three years ago, has some history with Bennett. Brown's oldest son had a high school teammate who played in college with Bennett and Brown was able to get a firsthand look at Bennett.

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