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June 28, 2013

Cavs take Bennett with No. 1 overall pick in NBA draft

NEW YORK — Anthony Bennett became the first Canadian to be the No. 1 pick and Nerlens Noel tumbled out of the top five Thursday night, a surprising start to the NBA draft.

The Cleveland Cavaliers passed on Noel and Alex Len, who went to Phoenix at No. 5, in favor of the UNLV freshman forward who has starred for Canada’s junior national teams and was the Mountain West Conference player of the year.

There was suspense right until the end, either because the Cavs were unsure who they wanted or were trying to trade the pick. Most predictions had them taking one of the big men, with Noel largely considered the favorite for the No. 1 choice even after a torn ACL that ended his lone season at Kentucky in February.

David Stern, booed heavily in his final draft as commissioner, added to the surprise of the moment by pausing slightly before announcing the Cavs’ pick, their first at No. 1 since taking All-Star Kyrie Irving in 2011.

“I’m just as surprised as anyone else,” Bennett said.

Orlando passed on both of the big men, too, going with Indiana swingman Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. Washington took Otto Porter Jr. with the third pick.

Ten years after the Cavaliers selected LeBron James to start a draft that would include his future NBA championship teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the top five, this one lacked star power and perhaps even the promise of stardom.

Bennett, Noel and Len are all coming off injuries and couldn’t even work out for teams, but the Cavs decided Bennett’s shoulder surgery wasn’t enough cause for concern.

Len walked up to meet Stern and collect his orange Suns hat, then sat down near the stage to put on the walking boot he needs for the stress fracture of his left ankle that was discovered after Maryland’s season.

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