With the Andrew Bynum debacle seemingly behind them, the Sixers made a splash Thursday night in the NBA draft when they acquired Nerlens Noel from New Orleans for All-Star guard Jrue Holiday. ESPN and Yahoo! are also reporting this trade.
Noel, out of Kentucky, had a March 12 operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The 6-foot-10 post player expects to return to the court by Christmas, a long road back likely to involve countless hours of rehabilitation.
A person familiar with the trade says the Pelicans sent Noel, the sixth overall pick, and a protected 2014 first-round pick to the Sixers for Holiday and the Sixers' second-round selection - 42nd overall - in this year's draft. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade had not been announced.
The 76ers selected Baylor guard Pierre Jackson with the 42nd overall pick in the NBA draft.
Noel was still wearing a New Orleans Pelicans hat in New York when he learned he was traded.
"They've got a great organization there, too. I'm just staying positive about everything," he said. "It shows how much confidence they have in me. I'm just looking to get down there and work hard."
With the Sixers suddenly in the market for a point guard, they selected Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th pick.
Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound guard, played two seasons at Syracuse. He led the Orange in assists (7.3) and steals (2.8) and averaged 11.9 points last season.
General manager Sam Hinkie came out swinging in his first draft running the team. Hinkie traded the Sixers' best player and acquired a big man to go along with a bounty of draft picks for next season.
The Sixers were in the draft lottery mostly because Bynum never played a game for them because of bone bruises in both his knees. Philadelphia also cleared Holiday's $41 million contract off the books, giving them plenty of cap space to continue to reshape a team that went 34-48 last season. The Sixers still have not hired a coach two months after Doug Collins resigned.
Noel led the nation with 4.4 blocks per game this season along with 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals, being named the Southeastern Conference's top rookie and defensive player along with making the all-conference first team.
Noel ran into the padded basket support after blocking a layup from behind and landing awkwardly, falling to the floor and screaming as he clutched his knee in a Feb. 12 game against Florida. Kentucky stumbled to a 4-5 finish with Noel out and lost in the NIT.
Now, it's on to Philadelphia.
"I'm just looking to get down there and make an impact," he said.
In his lone year as a starter, Carter-Williams broke the school record for steals in a season with 111 and finished with 292 assists, the second-highest total in Syracuse history behind only Sherman Douglas's record of 326 in 1988-89. Carter-Williams also recorded nine double-doubles.
His star rose greatly in the postseason as he led Syracuse on a scintillating run after an end-of-year skid. In free fall with four losses in five games to close the regular season, the Orange beat Seton Hall, Pittsburgh and Georgetown in the Big East tournament before falling to eventual-national champion Louisville in the title game at Madison Square Garden.
In the NCAA tournament, Carter-Williams scored a career-high 24 in an upset of top-seeded Indiana in the semifinals of the East Regional, just days after his family home had been ravaged by a fire. Two days later, in the regional final, he had 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals with just one turnover in a victory over Marquette and was named the most outstanding player of the regional.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.
Cavs take Bennett with No. 1 pick in NBA draft
One of the favorites to be taken first Thursday night, Noel fell to No. 6, where the New Orleans Pelicans took him and then dealt his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package headlined by All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, according to a person familiar with the details.
The Cleveland Cavaliers started things by passing on centers Noel and Alex Len, who went to Phoenix at No. 5, in favor Bennett, the UNLV freshman forward who starred for Canada's junior national teams and was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year.
"I'm just as surprised as anyone else," Bennett said.
There was suspense right until the end, either because the Cavs were unsure who they wanted or were trying to trade the pick. Most predictions had them taking one of the big men, with Noel largely considered the favorite for the No. 1 choice even after a torn ACL that ended his lone season at Kentucky in February.
"I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn't thinking I was the No. 1 pick," Noel said.
David Stern, booed heavily in his final draft as commissioner, added to the surprise of the moment by pausing slightly before announcing the Cavs' pick, their first at No. 1 since taking All-Star Kyrie Irving in 2011.
Orlando passed on both of the big men, too, going with Indiana swingman Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. Washington took Otto Porter Jr. with the third pick, keeping the Georgetown star in town.
Ten years after the Cavaliers selected LeBron James to start a draft that included future NBA championship teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the top five, this one lacked star power and perhaps even the promise of stardom.
Bennett, Noel and Len are all coming off injuries and couldn't even work out for teams, but the Cavs decided Bennett's shoulder surgery wasn't enough cause for concern.
Len walked up to meet Stern and collect his orange Suns hat, then sat down near the stage to put on the walking boot he needs for the stress fracture of his left ankle that was discovered after Maryland's season.
Noel finally went to New Orleans with the next pick. He didn't seem upset at his fall down the draft board, hugging his mother and shaking hands with Kentucky coach John Calipari.
It was a good start to the night for the Hoosiers, with Cody Zeller going to the Charlotte Bobcats two places after Oladipo.
Kansas guard Ben McLemore, another player who was considered a potential top-three pick, also dropped, going seventh to Sacramento.
Headed by a lackluster class, the draft promised confusion and second-guessing, with no consensus No. 1 pick and little agreement among the order of the top five.
And with lesser-known names in the draft, veterans soaked up the spotlight in the hours leading up to it.
Hosting the draft at Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets made the biggest news. A person with knowledge of the talks confirmed a Yahoo Sports report that the Nets and Celtics were working on a trade that would bring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.
ESPN reported earlier Thursday that Dwight Howard was unlikely to return to the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent next month.
The guys coming into the league were glad for the attention they did finally get once their names were called.
"It's like a weight vest you took off after running five miles," Oladipo said. "It's relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it's just getting started."
National player of the year Trey Burke of Michigan also was traded, the Minnesota Timberwolves sending his rights to Utah for the rights to Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, the Nos. 14 and 21 picks.
Lehigh's C.J. McCollum rounded out the top 10 by going to Portland.
Stern, retiring in February, seemed to play up the boos, which turned to cheers after every pick, fans perhaps as puzzled as some of the players at the names they were hearing.
"I was just kidding my agent because he didn't bail me out," Zeller said. "He didn't tell me. I didn't know until David Stern announced it. It's a crazy process not knowing, but I'm definitely excited that I ended up with the Bobcats."
Other players couldn't get too excited about their new addresses, because they changed quickly.
Stern was announcing deals by the middle of the first round and they promised to keep coming after he called it a night and turned things over to Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver for the final 30 picks.
The flurry of trades wasn't surprising with so much uncertainty surrounding this class and so much hope in other areas. Teams such as Houston, Dallas and Atlanta already have an eye on Howard's future, needing to have necessary salary cap space to offer a maximum contract that could lure him away from Los Angeles.
The 2014 class - which could be topped by a second straight Canadian in incoming Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins - will be higher regarded than this one, with James perhaps heading the available free agents to follow.
Local fans seemed pleased with their picks, cheering loudly when the Nets took Duke forward Mason Plumlee at No. 22 and the New York Knicks grabbed Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. two picks later.
Stern made his final pick to close the first round to cheers of "David! David!" then was greeted on stage by a surprise guest. Hakeem Olajuwon, the No. 1 pick in 1984 to start Stern's first draft, hugged the commissioner and said some words to the audience.