Three of the first six players taken were from Europe, capitalizing on the absence of some American college players who might have gone in their spots and made this a stronger draft.
After grabbing him with their first No. 1 pick since taking James in 2003, the Cavs used the No. 4 selection on Texas forward Tristan Thompson. They were the first team since the 1983 Houston Rockets with two top-four picks.
The Minnesota Timberwolves took Arizona forward Derrick Williams with the No. 2 pick. The Utah Jazz then took Turkish big man Enes Kanter third with their first of two lottery selections.
The league’s uncertain labor situation hung over the draft, and likely weakened it. Potential top-10 picks such as Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Harrison Barnes were among those who decided to stay in school, without knowing when their rookie seasons would have started.
Stern, who could lock out his players next week if a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached, was booed when he came onto the stage at the Prudential Center, which is hosting the draft while its usual home, Madison Square Garden, is undergoing summer work.
New Yorkers made the trip across the river to join the crowd of 8,417, cheering loudly when Kemba Walker and Fredette were taken in the top 10 and booing when the Knicks made Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert the No. 17 selection.
The draft was filled with little-known European players. Kanter hasn’t played competitively in a year, forced to sit out last season at Kentucky after being ruled ineligible for being paid to play in Turkey. Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas went fifth to Toronto and Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic was taken sixth by Washington.
“Basketball in my country is not so popular, but after this night, I think _ I hope _ that the basketball will be more popular,” Vesely said. “I will do my best to help that.”
Bismack Biyombo of Congo went seventh as one of six international players who went in the first round, three short of the record set in 2003. The 18-year-old forward moved to Charlotte as part of a three-way deal.
Kentucky’s Brandon Knight went eighth to Detroit as casual fans finally heard a name they recognized again. He was followed by Walker of national champion Connecticut, who wiped away tears on the draft stage after he was taken by Charlotte, and Fredette.
“It’s been like a movie. This whole year has been magical, honestly,” Walker said. “So many different, crazy things have been happening to me, and you know, I just feel lucky.”
Irving became the third point guard taken first in the last four years, following Derrick Rose in 2008 and John Wall last year. Rose was the NBA’s MVP this season, ending James‘ two-year reign.
Irving insists he’s not trying to replace James _ whose highlights were booed when showed on the overhead screen _ in a different manner now.
“I’m looking forward to getting to Cleveland,” Irving said. “It’s a big sports town and I cannot wait to embrace all of the fans there and the fan support. I can’t wait.”View Entire Story
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