NEW YORK — Anthony Bennett learned he would be making NBA draft history the same time as everyone else.
“When they said my name,” Bennett said. “That’s when I knew it happened. I had no idea before.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers surprisingly made Bennett the first Canadian No. 1 overall pick, and Nerlens Noel tumbled out of the top five and right into a trade Thursday night in an unsettled first round of the draft.
“It was chaotic from the first pick,” Minnesota president Flip Saunders said. “When Bennett was taken off the board, that set the tone for the whole draft.”
There were moves all night, all of them taking a back seat to one in the works for the team that calls Barclays Center home.
The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston in a blockbuster deal that was still developing as the draft neared its conclusion, according to a person with knowledge of the details.
“There was a lot of activity,” said Nets general manager Billy King, who wouldn’t comment on the trade. “As you guys will find out, there will be a lot of trades that are announced.”
His can’t be until July 10, after next season’s salary cap is set.
As for the draft, it was as unpredictable as expected, capped by Hakeem Olajuwon coming on stage at the end of the first round to greet David Stern, dressed in the same tuxedo style he wore when Stern called his name to start the soon-to-be retired commissioner’s first draft in 1984.
One of the favorites to be taken first Thursday night, Noel fell to No. 6, where the New Orleans Pelicans took him and then dealt his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package headlined by All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, according to a person familiar with the details. That trade can’t become official until July 10 because of salary cap concerns, according to another official with knowledge of the deal.
The Cavaliers started things by passing on centers Noel and Alex Len, who went to Phoenix at No. 5, in favor of Bennett, the UNLV freshman forward who starred for Canada’s junior national teams and was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year. Bennett led a record 12 international players who were taken in the first round.
“I’m just as surprised as anyone else,” Bennett said.
There was suspense right until the end of the Cavs’ 5-minute window to make their selection, either because they were unsure who they wanted or were trying to trade the pick. Most predictions had them taking one of the big men, with Noel largely considered the favorite for the No. 1 choice even after a torn ACL that ended his lone season at Kentucky in February.