Top pick Anthony Bennett welcomed by Cavaliers
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) - Anthony Bennett only got serious about playing basketball six or seven years ago.
He really wasn't that interested, and then things changed.
"I just started growing,'' Bennett said. "And everyone said, `You should probably play basketball.' So I said, `All right. I'll give it a shot.' Look where it got me now.''
Bennett was officially introduced Friday by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who shocked the NBA draft by selecting the UNLV power forward with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday night.
Although he wasn't regarded by many draft experts as the best player available, Bennett was always at the top of Cleveland's board. They scouted the 6-foot-7, 240-pounder all season, fell in love with his game and decided to take him ahead of several better known players including Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, Kansas guard Ben McLemore and Georgetown forward Otto Porter Jr.
"As we did our evaluations throughout the entire year, we just kept coming back to his ability and his talent and how it fit with our guys,'' Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. "A lot of times, like last year, it's just clear cut. But for us, through the year, we always had him very high in our rankings and as we went back and reviewed the film and went on campus and visited everybody, we came away saying he's a great kid. He's willing to work and do the right things and he's got a bunch of talent.''
The Cavs listened to several trade offers before finalizing their decision to take Bennett, who averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in one season for the Runnin' Rebels.
It's possible Bennett won't even start as a rookie and could wind up as a backup to fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson, who was taken by the Cavs in the first round in 2011. The two grew up close to each other in Brampton, Ontario.
"I feel like me and Tristan will become best friends,'' Bennett said. "He's going to be my go-to guy just because he's from Canada. I'm sure there are lot more guys on that team I can go to, but just because even if I'm here in Cleveland or back home in Brampton, I can talk to him anywhere I am.''
Bennett doesn't arrive without questions. He recently underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and has reportedly struggled with his weight while recovering.
But the Cavs see him as the next piece - along with Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters - to turn around a franchise that has gone 64-166 the past three seasons.
"A lot of guys in this draft were out for medical reasons, but at the end of the day we just felt like this was the right guy to add with all the talent he has,'' Grant said. "You put him in a pick and roll with Dion or Kyrie, he's going to be pretty difficult to guard because he can shoot the ball and is athletic and can handle the ball and get to the rim.''
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