Decked in a black and white floral-patterned designer suit befitting a No.1 draft pick, Canada’s Andrew Wiggins lived out the prophecy so many had pictured since he was a boy, as the Cleveland Cavaliers made him the top overall selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Wiggins becomes the second straight Canadian player taken No. 1, following in the footsteps of Anthony Bennett last year. It kicked off an evening that would see a record four Canadians picked, including Nik Stauskas, who went No. 8 to the Sacramento Kings, Tyler Ennis, picked 18th by the Phoenix Suns, and Dwight Powell, who the Charlotte Hornets chose 45th.
Wiggins of Vaughan, Ont. grew up with the title ‘future No.1 pick’ and has been showered with hype unprecedented in this country. He’s been endlessly admired and analyzed for his supreme athletic genes, the son of an Olympic track star and a former NBA player. His dunks became the stuff of YouTube highlight reels when he was just 14 years old, and since then, his every skill has been scrutinized and debated, but always labelled one whose game was a perfect fit for the NBA.
"Going to high school and college, the opportunity and possibility of going No. 1 came into talk, and now I accomplished that, so it's just a crazy feeling right now,” Wiggins told media in Brooklyn. “I don't even know how I feel. It doesn't even feel real right now."
Declaring for the draft after a single season at the University of Kansas, Wiggins became just the second Canadian ever to be the NBA’s top pick.
The 6-foot-8, 19-year old swingman is expected to contribute quickly at small forward in Cleveland, providing a unique athleticism the club hasn’t had since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in 2010. Wiggins joins two other Toronto-area players in Cleveland – Bennett and Tristan Thompson, the Cavs’ fourth overall pick in 2011.
“His personality in the moment that he was drafted was so similar to how he has always been all these years -- despite all the pressure that kid has faced, he has somehow maintained that very innocent smile,” said Gus Gymnopolous by phone, Wiggins’ coach at Vaughn Secondary School, who was among a large group of Wiggins’ family, friends and former coaches attending the draft.
“I can remember when he was in grade seven, he came to scrimmage at one of our high school practices and didn’t miss a beat against guys five years older than him elevating, creating and absorbing contact, finishing with his left hand. He was always a next level guy. Everyone imagined this day would come.”
Despite the expectations, there was much debate in recent months about whether Wiggins would indeed go first overall, right until the moment his named was called at the Barclay’s Centre in Brooklyn, NY. Many draft experts projected Jabari Parker, a small forward from Duke, should surpass Wiggins as the top pick, that perhaps he was the more certain talent. The Milwaukee Bucks chose Parker second.
Prior to Thursday night, 42 Canadians in total had been drafted to the NBA. No more than three had ever been selected in a single draft. Several more Canadians were expected to be chosen as the second round winded on late into Thursday evening.
The Toronto Raptors made a shocking selection with their No.20 pick, drafting an unknown in Bruno Caboclo, an 18-year-old small forward from Sao Paolo, Brazil. The Raptors had intended to take him with the No.37 pick and take Ennis at No.20, but they weren’t able to move up to get Ennis. Only a few NBA teams knew about Caboclo, who Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri had seen in Brazil in stealth. Dwane Casey then joined Ujiri in Houston to see Caboclo workout in Houston. But they were concerned he would be taken before No.37 rolled around.
Caboclo is a 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds, playing for E.C. Pinheiros, a popular team in Brazil’s top league. There, he has played with Raptors 2004 draft pick Babby Araujo, who had limited impact in Toronto before being traded to the Utah Jazz in 2006. Some scouts have compared his skillset to that of Kevin Durant.
“Bruno is an athletic phenomenon. This young man has a chance to hit it big,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “Three or four teams knew about him, but we had the most intel…He’s one of the most athletic guys in the draft.”
With the 37th pick, the Raptors took DeAndre Daniels, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Connecticut.
The Raptors took Xavier Thames Of San Diego State at No. 59.