Anthony Bennett #15 of the UNLV Rebels dribbles the ball up court against the California Golden Bears in the second half during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at HP Pavilion on March 21, 2013 in San Jose, …
Photographer: (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant has a history of draft-day surprises.
On Thursday, he pulled off his biggest stunner yet.
Pushing the drama until the last minute, the Cavaliers shocked experts and their fans by selecting UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
It was the third straight year the Cavs went outside the box in the first round. Two years ago, they 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 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 for UNLV.
"It's a great honor," Bennett said at Barclays Center in New York. "I'm speechless right now. I don't know what to say."
He wasn't alone.
Bennett was considered a longshot to land with Cleveland, and was rarely mentioned as a possibility in the days leading up to the draft.
The Cavs had been listening to trade offers for the pick since winning the lottery on May 21. Cleveland passed on Noel and Len, who are both recovering from injuries. Bennett, too, is rehabbing 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.
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 first-hand look at Bennett, who played just one season for the Runnin' Rebels.
The Cavs, who also own the Nos. 19, 31 and 33 picks, have had success with No. 1 picks. Bennett joins Austin Carr (1971), Brad Daugherty (1986), LeBron James (2003) and Irving (11) as players taken by Cleveland first overall.
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Kyrie Irving, coming off the first scoreless game of his career, scored 20 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 88-82 Saturday night.
Dion Waiters scored a season-high 30 points for the Cavaliers. Andrew Bynum tied his season high with 20 points and grabbed a season-best 13 rebounds, and Jarrett Jack added 13 points.