On a night of surprises and trades, the Dallas Mavericks made some noise by dealing for one of the most famous names and smallest players in the NBA draft, while the San Antonio Spurs once again tapped into their international pipeline.
Miami diminutive point guard Shane Larkin, son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, landed in Dallas after a pair of trades to move down Thursday night and clear salary-cap space in an effort to haul in free-agent center Dwight Howard.
San Antonio, which has often struck it big by going abroad, selected forward Livio Jean-Charles, a 6-foot-9-inch, 217-pound project from French Guiana.
Texas point guard Myck Kabongo never heard his name called at all. It’s the second year in a row a Longhorn who entered the draft early was passed over (J’Covan Brown in 2012).
Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson was taken 42nd overall by Philadelphia, then traded twice and winds up a New Orleans Pelican.
Cleveland set the tone for a crazy night and shredded all mock drafts by taking UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett at No. 1. Nearly everyone expected the Cavs to choose a center, Nerlens Noel or Alex Len, if not shooting guard Ben McLemore.
“I’m as shocked as anybody,” Bennett, a wide body who averaged 16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and has three-point range, told the draft audience.
Cleveland’s choice set in motion a sequence of events that dropped Kentucky’s Noel to No. 6, where he was picked by New Orleans and promptly traded to Philadelphia.
Both Indiana center Cody Zeller, who went No. 4 to Charlotte, and Len, No. 5 to Phoenix, went before Noel, a defensive giant recovering from a torn ACL.
McLemore, perhaps the most explosive scorer in the draft, fell all the way to No. 7 Sacramento. He was the only Big 12 player selected in round one.
Larkin, just 5 feet 11 inches and 162 pounds, averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists for the Hurricanes. He played his first two NCAA tournament games in Austin in March.
“He’s always been elevation-challenged, nothing he could do about that,” Barry Larkin said.
“But Shane was always the toughest kid on the floor. Basketball was his first love. He’d be dribbling a ball when he was in the Cincinnati Reds dugout with us.”
Dallas drafted Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk at No. 13 then sent him to Boston for the 16th choice and two future second-rounders.
Then the Mavericks swapped the No. 16 pick, shooting guard Jared Cunningham, whom the Mavs obtained in a draft-night deal last year, and the 44th pick this year to Atlanta for Larkin, who was chosen 18th.
Houston did not have a first-round pick. The Rockets are joining the Mavs in the Howard free-agency sweepstakes, and both are trying to shed salaries.
The Rockets chose Murray State point guard Isaiah Canaan in the second round. Canaan averaged 21.8 points and 4.5 assists.
Bennett, a 6-8, 245-pound top pick, reminds some of another former Runnin’ Rebel star who made it big in the NBA, Larry Johnson. “Grandmama” was a product of Dallas Skyline; Bennett is from Toronto, the first Canadian selected No. 1.
Cleveland’s choice impacts another Canadian, former Texas Longhorn star Tristan Thompson, who came on strong in his second pro season, since both play the same position.
“Going up against a great power forward like Tristan in practice every day is going to help me get better,” Bennett said. “Hopefully, I can play the 3, he can play the 4 and we can share the court at the same time.”
Tony Parker certainly has a good line on the Spurs’ pick. Jean-Charles plays in France for Villeurbanne, co-owned by Parker.
A USA Today scouting report on the 19-year-old said he’s long, athletic and a slashing scorer but extremely raw and stuck between positions.
There were at least 18 trades, including Michigan point guard Trey Burke, the national player of the year, going from Minnesota to Utah.