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No. 1 NBA pick Anthony Bennett, No. 6 Nerlens Noel say they have something to prove

UNLV's Anthony Bennett reacts after hitting a three-point

UNLV's Anthony Bennett reacts after hitting a three-point basket against CSU Bakersfield in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game. (Jan. 5, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Somewhere along the way, the value of their NBA draft stocks intersected. Anthony Bennett's on its way up and Nerlens Noel's on its way down.

Bennett, who was selected first overall out of UNLV, described draft night as "shocking." Noel said it was "frustrating." But now one is out to prove that he was worthy of being the top pick while the other is fully motivated to show that he deserved it all along.

"I'll probably have to prove myself," Bennett said Tuesday during the NBA rookie photo shoot at the MSG training facility. "But at the same time I can't do anything outrageous and try to play outside of my game. I have to keep everything simple."

Bennett, who was projected to be selected toward the back end of the top 10, was the surprise pick of the Cavaliers. Other players may have more upside, but many believed that Bennett was the most pro-ready prospect in the draft. The aspect of having an immediate impact was appealing to a Cavs team that is expected to contend for a playoff spot.

At 6-8, 240 pounds he has the size to play down low and overpower small forwards, but also a jump shot that can stretch the floor when he plays power forward.

"I feel like I already have a decent-sized body for the NBA to hang with the big guys," he said.

Bennett, who became the first Canadian in league history to be selected first overall, is recovering from a torn rotator cuff.

"I should be playing at 100 percent sometime this month," he said. "I'm not trying to rush it but at the same time, still trying to get myself ready and conditioned."

Unlike Bennett, Noel isn't expected to be in uniform when the NBA season tips off, which is a large reason for his drop in the draft.

Even when Noel was healthy and projected to go first overall, there was concern over how NBA-ready his lanky, 6-10, 228-pound frame truly would be. That concern was exacerbated when he tore the ACL in his left knee in February during his lone season at Kentucky.

He fell to sixth overall, where he was selected by New Orleans and later traded to a rebuilding Philadelphia team.

"That definitely adds more fuel to the fire with my motivation to really be the best player I can be and show them," Noel said of falling in the draft. "I was already hungry as it was. Nothing wrong with being more motivated."

His shot-blocking prowess is unquestioned, but Noel remains a raw talent offensively, limited to shots around the basket and putbacks. He said on Tuesday that there is still no timetable for his return and he hasn't begun any contact drills yet.

"I'm just definitely being careful," he said. "Just waiting until I feel stronger than before and I'm ready."

The paths of Bennett and Noel crossed once again Tuesday, this time as they wore their full NBA uniform for the first time. The No. 1 pick and the once presumed No. 1 pick, set to begin their careers.

"Everybody has been asking me if a lot of pressure has been added after going first," Bennett said. "Honestly, there is no pressure at all. I'm just enjoying the experience."


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