Bennett is Cavs’ No. 1 but not necessarily first choice

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — When the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to select UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, it’s safe to say there were no high fives in the room.

They had to decide on someone, and they had to do it by Thursday night. Had general manager Chris Grant and his staff been afforded another week, chances are, they would’ve used it.

This isn’t intended to say the Cavs are less-than-enamored with Bennett, an ultra-talented (albeit undersized) power forward with an All-Star upside.

But they didn’t reach their decision until the morning of the draft — and not because they thought this was a top-heavy event. Instead, they initially worked on trading the pick, seeking a talented young veteran and a 2014 first-rounder in return, sources told FOX Sports Ohio.

It didn’t happen which, again, was not necessarily a tragedy. There’s no shame in landing the guy who you (eventually) determine is the best player in the draft. Bennett wowed the Cavs during their scouting trips to out West and his interview visits in Cleveland.

“He just does things you don’t see other people do,” Grant said.

It’s true the Cavs already have Tristan Thompson on the roster. It’s true Thompson is a young up-and-coming power forward in his own right. But if Bennett can play as well as the Cavs think, new coach Mike Brown will find the minutes.

That won’t be a problem.

At the very least, it’s a better problem to possess than the ones involving other prospects who Grant described as “in the group.”

Kentucky center Nerlens Noel was recovering from a torn ACL.

Maryland center Alex Len was recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.

Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore didn’t impress at the end of the college season or in workouts.

All of those guys dropped to fifth or below.

The Cavs had lengthy discussions and internal debates about at least Noel and Len. On the night before the draft, it was believed three different important people had three different opinions on who the team should take.

It was also believed the Cavs were getting close on at least one trade, maybe more. One of those was a possible deal with the Dallas Mavericks for the No. 13 overall selection and forward Shawn Marion. But the Mavs didn’t want the Cavs’ two second-round picks (Nos. 31 and 33), and it fell flat.

Grant had several other projects in the works, and at least one other trade that may have been of more magnitude. But you can’t force teams to dance with you when they have 29 other partners from which to choose.

Again, there are worse things than keeping all four picks (although the Cavs traded No. 31, but more on that in a minute). That’s especially the case when the draft was just part of what the Cavs hope to accomplish this offseason.

Free agency begins Monday, and other than February, it marks the height of the trade market. The Cavs still plan to obtain a proven player — and they deserve at least until training camp in October to do so.

Other than nabbing Bennett, Grant got one guy he really wanted in Russian small forward Sergey Karasev. The Cavs supposedly figured they had to make that trade with Dallas for the No. 13 pick to land Karasev. Instead, he dropped right into their laps at 19.

They then selected California shooting guard Allen Crabbe at 31, and quickly shipped him to the Portland Trail Blazers for two future second-round picks. Two selections later, they chose Arizona State swingman Carrick Felix.

Karasev is under contract in the Russian league, but the Cavs believe it can be bought out “easily” and he will challenge Alonzo Gee for a starting role. Felix is a high-flying and high-energy guy who has a good shot at sticking.

In the meantime, the Cavs will march on with what they have –a flock of young players, a truckload of available wiggle room under the salary cap in a league that’s more cost-conscious than ever, and a GM who likes to make trades.

So no, there wasn’t any major celebrating in Cleveland on Thursday night. But yes, there is still time. And based on the draft, you can bet Grant and his staff will use every last minute of it.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO