INDEPENDENCE – They didn’t trade the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. They didn’t take Maryland center Alex Len, Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel or even Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore.
The Cavaliers pulled another draft night shocker Thursday and took UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett with the first pick.
“I’m speechless right now,” Bennett said. “I don’t even know what to say.”
It was the third straight year Cavs general manager Chris Grant made a very surprising pick early on, as he took Texas power forward Tristan Thompson at No. 4 in 2011 and Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters at No. 4 last year.
Ironically, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Bennett, one of the few players in the draft who was not measured at the NBA Draft Combine in May, is from Toronto, which is also the hometown of Thompson.
Though they could play together at times, the Canadians will spend most of their time competing for minutes at the power forward spot.
Bennett, whose weight has reportedly ballooned to 261 pounds since the end of last season, averaged 16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.2 blocks as a UNLV freshman. He shot .533 from the field overall, .375 on 3-pointers (36-for-98) and .701 at the line.
Bennett, who was unable to work out for NBA teams because he is recovering from surgery on his left shoulder, was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year.
The UNLV product is most often compared to fellow Runnin’ Rebel Larry Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 draft. Like Johnson, Bennett is often called a power forward in a small forward’s body.
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