David Stern and Hakeem Olajuwon, No. 1 pick in 1984, hug on Thursday night. (Jason DeCrow/AP)

NBA Commissioner David Stern and Hakeem Olajuwon, No. 1 pick in the 1984 draft, hug on Thursday night. (Jason DeCrow/AP)

On Thursday in Brooklyn 60 players were selected in the 2013 NBA Draft. To sort out some of the surprises and the safe plays, Bill Littlefield spoke with  Henry Abbott of ESPN’s TrueHoop.

No. 1 Falls To No. 6

With the first choice, the Cleveland Cavaliers eschewed the conventional choice, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, instead selecting Anthony Bennett from UNLV.

”A very high risk, high reward move. He has the potential to be a wonderful NBA scorer and can shoot three-pointers and he’s a very friendly, sweet guy and [general mangers] hate that. They like feisty jerks,” Abbott said. “So I hope it works out he has tremendous skill and size I don’t see why it wouldn’t.  But it wasn’t the guy that most GMs would’ve taken first.”

But Abbott points out that picking Noel also had its risks. New Orleans eventually took Noel with the sixth pick and then traded him to Philadelphia.

“[Noel] is the kind of guy that can get a GM fired.  Because he’s by advanced analytics and conventional analysis the best player in this draft, but he’s coming off a torn ACL.  If you pick him and his injury keeps him from taking the court effectively anytime soon, you’re probably getting fired,” Abbott said.  “But if you don’t pick him and he ends up being the best player in the draft, which could totally happen, you might get fired for that, too. I think we found five extremely nervous GMs who didn’t want any part of that risk reward factor.”

The Bobcats’ Surprise

Another surprise came when the Charlotte Bobcats, owned by Michael Jordan, took Indiana center Cody Zeller fourth.

“Cody Zeller’s one of the players that everybody thinks will help. He’ll be a contributing NBA player, lots of fans among NBA front offices, but nobody else would’ve taken him that high,” Abbott said.

Lehigh Makes A First-Round Appearance

In an interview for TrueHoop, Abbott spoke with C.J. McCollum, the first player ever drafted from Lehigh, who went to the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 10.  McCollum majored in journalism. The guard edited the sports section of the school newspaper for two years.

“Well, he’ll certainly have the media in his pocket. He’s like a machine designed to entice journalists,” Abbott said. “The NBA is trending towards three-point shooting.  That’s what wins, and he’s a guy that’s got that skill. I think he’ll be around for a long time.”

A Fond Farewell For Stern … Sort Of

Participating in his last draft before his upcoming retirement, David Stern received a torrential downpour of boos from the audience throughout the event, something he handled with humor. The approach didn’t surprise Abbott.

“Stern loves it. I have a pretty good relationship with David Stern, and it was all born of the fact that he likes to fight. That’s what fun to him,” he said.  “So, rather than being all polite I just started mixing it up with him, and we’ve been friends ever since.”

Stern had more performing left to do though, and it involved the first No. 1 pick he ever announced, Hakeem Olajuwon.

“When Stern left the stage for the last time at the draft.  There are two doors to the back stage and Olajuwon graciously holds out his hand as if to say, ‘This way commissioner, after you.’ And Stern either didn’t notice or didn’t care. He’s one of those guys that just goes his own way.  He just completely ignores Olajuwon and bolts through the other door.”