Anthony Bennett was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night and the Brooklyn Nets were the top story after agreeing to a trade with the Boston Celtics that could leave the Miami Heat's Big Three feeling undermanned.
The Nets will acquire Celtics veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in exchange for a modest package of players and three first-round draft picks. The trade cannot be completed until a moratorium on free-agent movement ends July 10.
Brooklyn will presumably open next season with a starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez in addition to Garnett and Pierce, making it a worthy challenger to two-time defending champion Miami in the Eastern Conference. The Nets would also acquire sharpshooter Jason Terry in the deal, fortifying their bench.
As part of their ongoing organizational overhaul, the Celtics would receive Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, Tornike Sheneglia and another player to be determined in addition to first-round picks in 2014, '16 and '18.
The day was supposed to be about Noel and McLemore, who topped most mock draft boards.
Neither player went in the top five, which maybe shouldn't have come as such a shock considering their detractors had as much to say as those touting their upside.
Noel is a defensive whiz but barely averaged double figures in points as a freshman at Kentucky and didn't play beyond February after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The New Orleans Pelicans took him with the sixth pick before trading his rights to Philadelphia for a package that included All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday.
McLemore is a pure shooter whose effort has occasionally been an airball. The Sacramento Kings scooped him up at No. 7.
Those concerns were among the reasons the Cleveland Cavaliers went with Bennett, a 6-foot-7 power forward from Nevada Las Vegas who became the first Canadian to be picked first overall. "I'm speechless right now," Bennett said on the ESPN broadcast. "I don't even know what to say, basically."
He wasn't the only one. Bennett is a versatile player who can score in a variety of ways, but he had built almost zero buzz as a possible top pick.
The Orlando Magic picked Indiana's Victor Oladipo second, increasing chatter about the team possibly trading incumbent shooting guard Arron Afflalo to the Clippers in exchange for point guard Eric Bledsoe.
One of the few draft selections that went according to script was the Washington Wizards using the No. 3 pick on Otto Porter, the local star from Georgetown who will presumably change his residence but not his cellphone number.
It was a night to boo mock draft projections and NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was repeatedly jeered inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn while presiding over his final draft before his February retirement. Stern responded with his trademark brand of bemused detachment.
"We've had to explain to our international audience that the boo is an American sign of respect," Stern said midway through the first round.
He eventually received a standing ovation before introducing Nemanja Nedovic, the final pick of the first round and the last of the hundreds Stern had announced over his career.
Stern could have used a detailed cheat sheet as well as a pronunciation guide to decipher several players in what was widely considered one of the weakest drafts in recent history. The commissioner gets high marks for correctly saying Giannis Antetokounmpo (YAHN-iss ahn-teh-toe-KUHN-poe), the small forward from Greece selected No. 15 by the Milwaukee Bucks.
One of the oddest moments in a draft full of them came when Stern announced that Tony Snell, picked No. 20 by the Chicago Bulls, was not present. Conveniently, UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, who had not shaken Stern's hand when he was taken No. 14 by the Utah Jazz, was now ready for his close-up and emerged from a doorway behind the commissioner.
The fall of Noel and McLemore stunned more than fans. Online betting site Pregame.com had given Noel a 67% chance of being the top pick, with Alex Len, Oladipo, McClemore and Porter next in order of likelihood.
Noel did become a first of sorts.
He was the first Pelican drafted … and traded after New Orleans was able to extract from Philadelphia Holiday and a 2014 first-round draft pick for another big man with knee issues. Didn't the 76ers learn anything from the Andrew Bynum experience?
Noel could be ready to make his NBA debut by Christmas Day.
That would be a first he could easily get behind.