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Cleveland Cavaliers Shock NBA With First Draft Pick


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel. The NBA season may have ended, but there is still a lot of pro basketball to talk about. The NBA draft took place last night with a real surprise choice leading things off. And there's a big trade in the news, too. NPR's Mike Pesca is with us. Hi, Mike.


SIEGEL: The first player picked last night was a surprise - a shock, you might even say - Anthony Bennett out of UNLV. Why did the Cleveland Cavaliers pick Bennett?

PESCA: Well, the Cavaliers looked at their roster, and they think that Bennett, who's 6-7, 6-8 - and is very good at shooting from the outside, and he's very good near the rim - he fits in well with what they have already. Perhaps a cynic might add, is what they have already so important? I mean, you get to pick first in the draft because you're not such a good team. But overall, it was considered a weak draft, which is a bit of a cliche, and sometimes that label gets hung on players unfairly when you look back - in retrospect.

But it is clear that the number one player this year wasn't one of those sought-after guys, whoever the No. 1 player was going to be, and it was probably - going up to the draft - it was thought to be Nerlens Noel, who played for Kentucky. But he hurt his knee, and he's also very - a raw specimen, you know; a kind of guy who could play great defense, but will he be able to contribute immediately? It's very hard, by the way, to go to the draft and watch a lot of TV without using all these cliches, like ridiculous upside.



PESCA: But because of factors like that, Bennett went No. 1.

SIEGEL: Well, what happened to Noel in the draft?

PESCA: So he did slip down, down, down, down, down - people were wondering - at sixth. The New Orleans Pelicans picked him, the newly named Pelicans. But then they immediately traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers. It was an odd thing. I was in the press conference with Noel. They said, oh, you've been traded to the Sixers, and he kind of didn't know that. They said, what do you like about Sixers? He said, well, they have a great point guard in Jrue Holiday. Guess who they traded Noel for?


PESCA: Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans also gave up a draft pick next year.

SIEGEL: Any other surprises during last night's draft?

PESCA: Yes. Well, there are always players that we've seen play, but we might not know them; we might not get to know their personalities. And there are guys from foreign lands and obscure schools. And one school who's never had a player drafted is Lehigh University. But C.J. McCollum went to the Portland Trail Blazers. And here is McCollum, who's a very charming guy, explaining that growing up, baseball was his best sport.

C.J. MCCOLLUM: It was kind of boring, and basketball was more intense. And I like the fact that, you know, when I shot threes, they said, three! - and stuff like that. And the fact that I was allergic to grass, that did have a huge factor in me deciding to stop playing it.

PESCA: Yeah, so I would say if - you know, the allergy is to grass, maybe you want to get out of that sport, not go into a field like landscaping. As I said, there were a lot of international players, a record number of international players. One guy from New Zealand, a guy named Steve Adams, is the youngest of 18 children. He's also the tallest of 18 children, at 7 feet tall. And there's a Greek player named Giannis Adetokunbo - I'm sure I got his name wrong. But he's 6-10, has all the scouts salivating because he plays point guard.

SIEGEL: And the other fellow could have gone into landscaping with artificial turf, I suppose.

PESCA: There are always options, yes.

SIEGEL: Well, he had to. Then there's this very odd story overshadowing a lot of these picks - was a trade. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, great veteran stars of the Boston Celtics, leaving Boston; headed for the Brooklyn Nets. Why are the Celtics giving up two of their best players, who helped them win a championship a few years ago?

PESCA: The adjective you used, veteran - which means old. Now, Pierce and Garnett are still actually great players, even though they're 35 and 37 - Pierce, 35; Garnett, 37. The Nets improve immediately, but they have taken on so much salary. They are owned by a Russian billionaire. He might not care. But the Nets have gotten better. They have a really short window - two years - to possibly win. All the Celtics were trying to do was, you know, dump salary and get some draft picks for it. The Nets also shifted draft picks to the Celtics. It is a pretty good trade for the Nets, for the next two years. They could be in terrible shape, in the years to come.

SIEGEL: One last, quick question, Mike, about the guy who doesn't stand 6-7 or 6-8 - NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was booed a lot last night, his last NBA draft. He doesn't sound like he's going out a very popular guy.

PESCA: Yeah. But he was booed lustily and played to the crowd and said, come on, you could do better than that. I asked people in the crowd why they were booing him. I just got a sense of, you know, the answer is that - Bart Simpson, why was he was booing Principal Skinner. You just boo the commissioner. It's what you do.



PESCA: He has grown this business tremendously. He made some unpopular decisions along the way.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Mike. That's NPR sports correspondent Mike Pesca. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.
Robert Siegel
Robert Siegel is senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel is still at it hosting the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reporting on stories and happenings all over the globe. As a host, Siegel has reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
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