INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers started Thursday night’s NBA Draft with a surprise, selecting UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the draft’s No. 1 overall pick.
Bennett (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) has been recovering from a shoulder injury and didn’t go through the pre-draft workout circuit, but he made enough of an impression in his one college season that the Cavaliers were willing to take a chance on him.
The 20-year-old Bennett is a native of Toronto. He finished high school playing for Findlay Prep in Nevada and stayed in Las Vegas for his only college season, averaging 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds. He connected on 37.5 percent of his 3-point tries and 53 percent overall.
A gifted scorer, Bennett will have to prove he can defend at the NBA level — especially under Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown, who’s beginning his second stint with the team.
The Cavaliers offered few, if any hints, of which way they were leaning with the draft’s No. 1 pick since winning their second NBA Draft Lottery in three years last month. Big men Nerlens Noel and Alex Len offered intrigue but also were very raw — and, like, Bennett, both were battling
Bennett becomes the first Canadian to be selected No. 1 overall. The Cavaliers selected fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson in 2011 at No. 4 overall. Canadian Andrew Wiggins is expected to be a top pick next June after
“It’s history,” Bennett said. “Hopefully we can repeat it next year with Andrew.”