NEW YORK (AP) — With Andrew Wiggins at No. 1, it was a big night for Canada and Kansas. And it better be the right one for the Cavaliers.
Cleveland went north of the border to open the NBA draft for the second straight year Thursday night, hoping Wiggins works out better than Anthony Bennett.
Thrilled to go first and even happier when Jayhawks teammate Joel Embiid went two picks later, Wiggins beamed in his black tuxedo jacket with a white floral pattern.
“A thousand thoughts are going through my head right now,” Wiggins said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Bennett was injured last summer, came into the season out of shape and made no impact, one of the reasons the Cavs were back in this spot again.
But Wiggins seems a much more ready product after averaging a Kansas freshman-record 17.1 points. He might have ended up as the top pick anyway, but became the best option for the Cavs when Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot shortly before the draft.
After making Canada the only country besides the U.S. to have consecutive No. 1 picks, Wiggins slipped on a maroon Cleveland hat, hugged his supporters and went on stage to shake hands with Commissioner Adam Silver, who was calling the first round for the first time since replacing David Stern.
Milwaukee followed with another freshman, Duke forward Jabari Parker, who on Wednesday disputed that he was out of shape for his workout with Cleveland and performed poorly. Some consider him the more NBA-ready player after an All-American season for the Blue Devils, and getting to play in Milwaukee puts him near his family in Chicago.
“I’m just very optimistic,” Parker said. “If it was 1, 2, put me at 60, just getting that opportunity, getting that chance of being in the NBA.”
Embiid went third to Philadelphia, drawing loud cheers from the many red-and-blue dressed 76ers fans who made the trip to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as well as from Philadelphia guard Michael Carter-Williams, last season’s Rookie of the Year who was sitting on the arena floor level.
The 76ers had two top-10 picks and could afford to take a chance on Embiid, the big man who may have ended up the top prize despite his lone season at Kansas ending early because of a bad back. But once the foot injury popped up during workouts, leaving his NBA debut uncertain after surgery, the two teams at the top passed.