NEW YORK — Anthony Bennett became the first Canadian No. 1 overall pick, and Nerlens Noel tumbled out of the top five and right into a trade in a surprising start to an unsettled NBA draft.
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.
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The Cleveland Cavaliers started things by passing on centers Noel and Alex Len, who went to Phoenix at No. 5, in favor Bennett, the UNLV freshman forward who starred for Canada's junior national teams and was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year.
"I'm just as surprised as anyone else," Bennett said.
There was suspense right until the end, either because the Cavs 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.
"I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn't thinking I was the No. 1 pick," Noel said.
The Pistons also pulled a bit of a surprise, taking Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, passing on a trio of potential point guards to take a versatile scorer who played college basketball at Georgia.
The 6-foot-5 Caldwell-Pope averaged 18.5 points per game as a sophomore last season and shot 37 percent from 3-point range. Detroit has added big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in recent drafts, and they also took point guard Brandon Knight two years ago. That might be why they decided to pass on point guard Trey Burke of Michigan, a local favorite.
Kansas star Ben McLemore was taken one pick before Detroit's turn. In addition to Burke, guards Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. McCollum were both available.
Orlando passed on both big men, too, going with Indiana swingman Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. Washington took Otto Porter, Jr., with the third pick, keeping the Georgetown star in town.
Bennett, Noel and Len are all coming off injuries and couldn't even work out for teams, but the Cavs decided Bennett's shoulder surgery wasn't enough cause for concern.
Len walked up to meet Stern and collect his orange Suns hat, then sat down near the stage to put on the walking boot he needs for the stress fracture of his left ankle that was discovered after Maryland's season.
Noel finally went to New Orleans with the next pick. He didn't seem upset at his fall down the draft board, hugging his mother and shaking hands with Kentucky coach John Calipari.
It was a good start to the night for the Hoosiers, with Cody Zeller going two places after Oladipo to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Kansas guard McLemore, another player who was considered a potential top-three pick, also dropped, going seventh to Sacramento.
Headed by a lackluster class, the draft promised confusion and second-guessing, with no consensus No. 1 pick and little agreement among the order of the top five.
And with lesser-known names in the draft, veterans soaked up the spotlight in the hours leading up to it.
Hosting the draft at Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets made the biggest news. A person with knowledge of the talks confirmed a Yahoo Sports report that the Nets and Celtics were working on a trade that would bring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.
ESPN reported earlier Thursday that Dwight Howard was unlikely to return to the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent next month.
The Cavaliers selected Russian guard Sergey Karasev with the No. 19 pick.
The Cavs had been targeting Karasev for some time and thought they might have to trade up to get the 19-year-old, who played on the Russian Olympic team last summer.
DESHAUN THOMAS TO SPURS:
Ohio State star Deshaun Thomas is joining the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs selected the 6-foot-7 junior forward with the 58th overall pick Thursday night in the NBA draft.
Thomas averaged a Big Ten-high 19.8 points as a junior and finished his career ninth on the Buckeyes' all-time scoring list with 1,630 points.
"My three years at Ohio State have been the best years of my life,” Thomas said in a release upon turning pro in April. “I have grown tremendously as an individual and as a basketball player. I intend to return to finish my degree, but I believe that now is the best opportunity to pursue my dream and begin my career as a professional basketball player."