Published Thursday, June 27, 2013 | 4:45 p.m.
Updated Thursday, June 27, 2013 | 8:30 p.m.
Vote: Was Bennett right for No. 1?
- Do you think Anthony Bennett was the right choice for the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first pick?
- Yes — 78.5%
- No — 21.5%
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Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
The Larry Johnson comparisons aren’t going to stop anytime soon for Anthony Bennett. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected former Rebel Anthony Bennett with the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in New York.
“It’s a great honor,” Bennett told ESPN after stepping off the stage. “I’m speechless right now. I don’t even know what to say.”
Johnson was the only Rebel to go No. 1 overall when the Charlotte Hornets took him first in the 1991 draft. Since the day he committed to UNLV, Bennett couldn’t escape comparisons to Johnson, another brick house forward who could stretch the defense.
It was never fair because Johnson came to UNLV as a junior and Bennett was a much better outside shooter even while playing at Findlay Prep. But that didn’t stop fans from making the connection and now that they’re linked as top picks it’s only going to intensify.
“Being a No. 1 pick has a lot of names to it,” Bennett told ESPN, “but I feel like it’s just the game of basketball so I’m going to come out here, work hard and do what I can.”
Bennett will join former Findlay Prep great Tristan Thompson in the Cavs’ front court and the chance to play with former top pick Kyrie Irving makes this a great destination for the first Canadian to ever go No. 1. Last year the rookie wage scale paid the top overall pick $4,286,900 in his first year, $4,479,800 in his second and $4,672,700 in the third year.
And the lottery didn’t conclude without another local high school star, Shabazz Muhammad, coming off the board. At No. 14 Muhammad was taken by the Utah Jazz, who made the pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves for an earlier trade.
The Timberwolves drafted Michigan guard Trey Burke at No. 9 and then dealt him to the Jazz for picks No. 14 and 21, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Minnesota used that second pick on Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng.
Muhammad eventually got his moment on stage, appearing next to soon following the Chicago Bulls pick at No. 20. With that selection the Bulls picked up a familiar face to UNLV fans: New Mexico's Tony Snell. The long, athletic Snell could be a tremendous burst off the bench for a team expected to get former MVP Derrick Rose back next season.
Fellow Mountain West alum Jamaal Franklin had to wait much longer to hear his name. A fringe first-round prospect, the San Diego State guard went No. 41 to the Memphis Grizzlies. One pick later the Philadelphia 76ers took former Desert Pines and Baylor guard Pierre Jackson.
Despite months of mock drafts and speculation that had Bennett as a surefire top five pick, he was rumored recently to be slipping out of that range. Many believe it was because of his recent weight gain.
On Monday, ESPN’s Chad Ford tweeted that Bennett, who was listed at 240 pounds as a Rebel, weighed in at 261. Many national writers reported that NBA general managers didn’t think offseason shoulder surgery excused the weight gain.
For some it may have magnified the concerns teams already had about the Toronto native’s work ethic. For others, including Cleveland, it could have been all misdirection.
There were plenty of concerns coming out of his freshman season at UNLV but most agreed his potential was too great to let him slip very far.
In his one season at UNLV, Bennett averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game. The shoulder injury that required offseason surgery sidelined him for most of a road victory at Wyoming but he didn’t miss any other games, starting 32 of 35 contests.
Muhammad was also no stranger to scrutiny. The former top-rated high school player in the country has dealt with several scandals in the past year, including an NCAA investigation and a revelation that he's a year older than previously stated.
Now with that behind him Muhammad, like Bennett, is hoping to just play basketball.