Commentary

Wild draft night in Brooklyn

When Cleveland took UNLV's Bennett first, the tone of unpredictability was set

Originally Published: June 29, 2012
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Less than 30 minutes before the NBA draft, Anthony Bennett's agent was wondering if his client would drop to the Detroit Pistons at No. 8.

Jeff Schwartz wasn't alone. He had legitimate angst because there was suddenly concern about Bennett's weight and shoulder injury.

The green room area was filled with an eerie calm as the players, their families and their agents all wondered what would happen at No. 1.

None of them had ever experienced such unknown and unpredictability.

So, of course, Cleveland shocked them all by picking Bennett No. 1.

And so it began.

A draft that lacked built-in superstars produced one of the most unpredictable evenings, with players being traded so many times it was hard to keep count.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Bennett
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsSurprise! That's Anthony Bennett, not Nerlens Noel, being selected No. 1.

Bennett's reaction to being selected was raw and real. He didn't know. No one was certain.

Cleveland general manager Chris Grant said he took Bennett because he was the best talent.

This was a draft where that view wasn't shared by everyone for any pick. There was no consensus at any selection.

At least 24 trades were made at last count early Friday morning. Seventeen players were traded once. Six players were traded twice. If you were a player not in Brooklyn trying to figure out where you were headed your head might have been spinning, attempting to keep up on the trades. More trades could be happening as we type.

Teams were never sure who they really wanted.

Oh, and in the middle of all this, the Celtics and Nets were working feverishly to reconstruct both teams with a blockbuster deal involving All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

The draft could have been an undercard to that event, but the zaniness of the evening allowed that trade to be a sidebar for a few hours.

One player personnel director said it was a crazy night and confusing because of so many unknowns.

Another said injuries, background checks and the financial implications of teams wanting to cut cap space led to some indecisiveness and frequent pick-and-player trades.

A scout texted to say the lack of real stars and many cases of beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder thinking were more reasons for the movement.

And a former general manager said the lack of depth meant that some teams simply wanted to get out of the first round.

The Bennett pick started off the night heading toward a twist that was hard to project.

Bennett, who starred for UNLV in his only season, should be ready to go by training camp. Cleveland had to weigh three players' injuries -- those of Bennett, Kentucky's Nerlens Noel and Maryland's Alex Len.

Noel slipped to No. 6 because his knee was a question. If Noel never tore his ACL then he would have been a consensus No. 1, right? Well, in this draft, maybe not.

The steal of the draft could have come from Sacramento, which probably had no idea that Ben McLemore would be available at No. 7.

Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter were seemingly locks at Nos. 2 and 3 to Orlando and Washington, two teams that never really wanted to move their picks.

Cody Zeller completed a wild run to the top four, going to Charlotte by playing himself into a center during workouts and at the draft combine in Chicago. He was considered a top pick last summer, only to have his game be knocked when Indiana lost to Syracuse in the Sweet 16.

The Len-Noel picks by Phoenix and New Orleans were musts based on the projected talent, but then Noel ended up being shipped to Philadelphia in the first of many moves on the night. This was a classic case of the Pelicans making the best pick at the time and using the asset to acquire more talent wealth. Of course, Noel ended up joining Michael Carter-Williams in Philadelphia, a player whom he knows well from New England high school/prep ball.

The steal of the draft could have come from Sacramento, which probably had no idea that Ben McLemore would be available at No. 7. McLemore has the most potential of anyone in this draft of one day being an All-Star.

Detroit messed with Minnesota by grabbing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a pick in advance.

Minnesota got Trey Burke -- for a few moments, only to ship him to Utah for a player who will have to earn the trust of Flip Saunders and Rick Adelman in Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, too.

Portland was thinking of taking a big but then had to go and grab the next-best talent in C.J. McCollum. The Blazers can pair him with last season's rookie of the year and another lower-profile school gem in Damian Lillard.

Oklahoma City was trying to move up but got a big the Thunder coveted in Steven Adams.

There were players who can say they made the right call by going higher than projected when they left school early, such as New Mexico's Tony Snell (20 -- Chicago); Colorado's Andre Roberson (26 -- Minnesota to Golden State to ultimately Oklahoma City); North Carolina's Reggie Bullock (25 -- L.A. Clippers); Kentucky's Archie Goodwin (29 -- Oklahoma City to Golden State to, finally, Phoenix).

And then there was the tale of the ineligible Providence guard Ricky Ledo and the South Dakota State Jackrabbit Nate Wolters. Both were traded to Philadelphia but neither will play for the Sixers.

Wolters was drafted by Washington at No. 38 and then traded to the Sixers for Glen Rice Jr., who was taken three picks earlier. And then Milwaukee picked Ledo at No. 43. The Bucks then traded Ledo for Wolters. Ledo then stayed in Philadelphia for a few moments before he was shipped off to Dallas.

Got it?

Will this draft produce All-Stars? Will there be rotation players? If you have an answer, then you're guessing.

What this draft did is provide one fantastically confusing, entertaining and unpredictable evening for everyone involved.

Just wait until 2014 -- the draft that everyone wanted in 2013 -- to arrive for some real drama as teams salivate over the hyped talent (read: Kansas' Andrew Wiggins).

So yes, we could have two Canadians going No. 1 two years in a row.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com