Griffin pick follows day of major trades

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NEW YORK --- Blake Griffin was the consensus No. 1 pick. Shaq to the Cavs was the consensus blockbuster.

On a day of head-turning trades around the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers started Thursday night's draft with the obvious choice: Griffin, the only player considered a sure thing in a class full of question marks.

Griffin was the consensus college player of the year after leading the nation with 14.4 rebounds per game while averaging 22.7 points last season for Oklahoma. The Clippers said they would take the forward with the top pick just hours after they won the draft lottery last month, and never considered changing their minds.

"The fact is we're getting an incredible player, incredible person, an impeccable work ethic and a guy that we plan on having in L.A. for many years to come," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He's going to be a great, exciting fit for our ballclub."

The draft followed a day of big trades in the NBA.

Dunleavy announced the Clippers' intentions shortly after his team's surprising lottery win, and they began a marketing campaign featuring the forward the next day.

The Clippers are hoping Griffin turns out better than their last No. 1 overall pick. They opened the 1998 draft by taking center Michael Olowokandi, a bust who is out of the league.

"Hopefully I can bring something they don't have," Griffin said. "I know they have a lot of great players but at the same time I'm excited about the opportunity and hopefully I can bring something to the table that they don't have or maybe they need."

The Memphis Grizzlies then grabbed Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet, a dominant rebounder and shot blocker who doesn't have strong offensive skills.

After the two big men, the rest of the first round was dominated by guards.

The Minnesota Timberwolves took two of them with the fifth and sixth picks. They snapped up Spanish teenager Ricky Rubio at No. 5, a pick they acquired from Washington earlier this week, before going for Syracuse's Jonny Flynn with the next pick.

It was thought Rubio might go as high as No. 2, but that never worked out for Memphis. Instead the Grizzlies went with Thabeet, the 7-foot-3 native of Tanzania who switched from soccer to basketball just a few years ago. He has rapidly developed his defensive skills, but still has work to go on the other end.

Rubio has to pay a multimillion dollar buyout to his Spanish club team to get out of his contract, and he said Wednesday his mother doesn't like cold weather.

Oklahoma City took high-scoring Arizona State guard James Harden with the No. 3 pick and Sacramento followed by drafting Memphis freshman Tyreke Evans -- who like Griffin was wearing a purple tie.

So was Stephen Curry, the NCAA scoring leader from Davidson who went at No. 7 to Golden State.

Jordan Hill (New York), Demar DeRozan (Toronto) and Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee) rounded out the top 10.

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