The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised pretty much everyone with who their selectio as the number one pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Canada’s Anthony Bennett (203 cm, UNLV’13) did not register on most experts’ radars as contender for the top honor. The general consensus before the draft was that Cleveland would likely select Kentucky’s defensive specialist Nerlens Noel (208 cm, Kentucky’13) despite his being in recovery from a March surgery to repair a torn ACL. To Bennett’s credit he was projected to be picked in the Top 10, just not first overall. Bennett is the first-ever Canadian to be selected first overall in an NBA draft. Who is this forward from UNLV that the Cavaliers felt strongly about?
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The Cavaliers have a few options at their disposal now that they have Bennett on board. They can explore using him as a small forward, a position where they are sorely deficient in, or they can use him as insurance in the event they lose often-injured, Brazilian Anderson Varejao (205 cm).
Victor Oladipo (196 cm, Indiana’13) was selected second by the Orlando Magic. The scoring guard, known for his impressive work ethic, could potentially make an instant impact for the team if they are able to trade away Arron Afflalo (196 cm, UCLA’07) who has been in recent trade rumors.
The Washington Wizards selected hometown favorite Otto Porter (203 cm, Georgetown’13), who not only is from Washington but also happens to be a perfect fit for the Wizards’ needs at small forward.
Cody Zeller (213 cm, Indiana’13) was picked by the Charlotte Bobcats with the fourth pick. His brother Tyler (213 cm, North Carolina’12) plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers and his other brother Luke (211 cm, Notre Dame’09) plays for the Phoenix Suns.
Ukranian Alex Len (216 cm, Maryland’13) brings size, versatility, and a solid offensive game to the Phoenix Suns’ front court. He was actually under consideration by the Cavaliers for the first pick. Even though he didn’t go that high, his being selected fifth overall is still higher than where most projected him to land. He gives Phoenix a bit more flexibility moving forward. They can now let go of disgruntled Polish center Marcin Gortat (211 cm), who was sounding off his displeasure with his lack of touches under the direction of then head coach, Alvin Gentry.
A whirlwind, roller-coaster ride for Noel
That’s what projected first-pick Nerlens Noel must have felt all evening. He was clearly disheartened by not being picked by Cleveland during the draft. His heart must have sank lower and lower as pick after pick was announced and his name was not called by commissioner David Stern. Finally, after being selected sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans he looked relieved. In his initial interview, he expressed excitement at the thought of sharing the paint with fellow elite defender, Anthony Davis, last season’s first overall draft pick. Again, his fate as he entered the NBA took another twist, this time via a trade. On draft night Noel and a 2014 (top 3 protected) first-round pick was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for all-star point guard Jrue Holiday (191 cm, UCLA’09). This transaction could be an omen that the Sixers may not be interested to hold onto injury-prone Andrew Bynum, who is an unrestricted free agent this July.
Another surprise for some was how low Ben McLemore (196 cm, Kansas’13) fell in the draft. He was highly regarded as one more talented prospects in this year’s crop of candidates. The Sacramento Kings simply could not pass up grabbing him at seventh.
The Oklahoma City Thunder who were making noise close to the Draft’s eve, trying to trade into a Top 5 pick. They were in the market for a big man, hoping to snag Alex Len. While they were unable to trade up in the draft, they managed to secure an intriguing prospect. New Zealand’s Steven Adams (213 cm, Pittsburgh’13) fits the bill for them and they seemed satisfied to take him 12th in the draft. Adams is still regarded as not being NBA-ready just yet and will be likely sent to the D-League to percolate a bit more.
Anthony Bennett was not the only Canadian to be taken in the first round. Kelly Olynyk (213 cm, Gonzaga’13) was picked by the Dallas Mavericks at number 13, but his draft rights were traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for 16th pick Brazilian Lucas Nogueira (213 cm) and two future second-round picks.
One of the more interesting picks of the night belonged to the Milwaukee Bucks at 15. They chose to go for potential in selecting Greek-Nigerian Giannis Adetukonbo (206 cm). He is considered to be a raw and talented youngster with a high upside. His length and athleticism make him an intriguing choice for a franchise that might be on the brink of a rebuilding period with more than a few of their players entering free agency this July. He is not expected to make waves right away, but can blossom into a good NBA player some years down the line.
Other international players selected in the first round:
Dennis Schroeder (Germany) – 17th, Atlanta
Sergey Karasev (Russia) – 19th, Cleveland
Gorgui Dieng (Senegal) – 21st, Utah (traded to Minnesota)
Rudy Gobert (France) – 27th, Denver (traded to Utah)
Livio Jean-Charles (Guyana-France) – 28th, San Antonio
Nemanja Nedovic (Serbia) – 30th, Phoenix Suns (goes to Golden State)