Andrew Wiggins was selected by Cleveland with the first pick in the National Basketball Association draft, the second straight Canadian-born player to be taken No. 1 by the Cavaliers.
The Cavs last year used the top overall pick on Anthony Bennett, who struggled as an NBA rookie and failed to crack the starting lineup. The highest a Canadian player had been taken in the NBA draft before last year was fourth.
Two more Canadians were taken in the first round -- Nik Stauskas at No. 8 by the Sacramento Kings and Tyler Ennis at No. 18 by the Phoenix Suns. It marked the first time three Canadians were taken in the first round of an NBA draft. Stanford forward Dwight Powell, from Toronto, was chosen in the second round.
“It opens the door for all the youth and everyone in Canada,” the 6-foot-8 Wiggins, who’s from Thornhill, Ontario, told reporters. “It gives them hope, because coming up when I was in Canada, I wasn’t ranked or nothing. I wasn’t known, I didn’t have no offers or anything like that.”
Wiggins, who can play shooting guard or small forward, averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds a game in his lone season at the University of Kansas. He’s the seventh college freshman in eight years to be drafted No. 1 and ESPN draft analyst Tom Penn said Wiggins has superstar potential.
“When you draft at one, you’re swinging for a perennial All-Star who can be an MVP candidate and lead your franchise,” said Penn, the former assistant general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. “He hasn’t demonstrated the consistent alpha dog makeup you want to see, but he’s so young, with so much talent, that he’s No. 1 worthy.”
It’s the third time in four years the Cavaliers have had the first pick in the NBA draft. Cleveland, which won this year’s draft lottery despite having a 1.7 percent chance, took point guard Kyrie Irving as the top pick in 2011 and Bennett, a 6-foot-8 power forward, last year.
The Milwaukee Bucks, who had the NBA’s worst record this past season with a 15-67 mark, picked Duke University forward Jabari Parker with the No. 2 pick and the Philadelphia 76ers selected Joel Embiid at No. 3 a week after the Kansas center had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot.
The Orlando Magic took Arizona forward Aaron Gordon at No. 4, followed by the Utah Jazz taking Australian guard Dante Exum.
The New York Knicks, who did not have a first-round pick, selected forwards Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo with the second-round picks they got in this week’s six-player trade with the Dallas Mavericks.
Wiggins, 19, is the youngest son of Mitchell Wiggins, who played six seasons in the NBA, and former Canadian Olympic sprinter Marita Payne-Wiggins, who won silver medals in relays in 1984 and 1988. While Wiggins set a Kansas freshman scoring record, he was held to a season-low four points in the Jayhawks’ loss to Stanford in the national men’s tournament after averaging 28 in his previous four games.
“It’s a huge moment for me and my family right now, especially because my parents were pro athletes before,” Wiggins said. “Now they can kind of like live the dream again through me and just watch their youngest son just do something special with his life and play at the highest level of basketball.”