NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft Thursday, providing a cornerstone for a rebuilding team that set new standards for sporting failure last season.
A slick ball handler with size and speed, Irving is expected to be an immediate contributor when he joins a Cavaliers team that crumbled into ruin last season after twice MVP LeBron James spurned them to sign with the Miami Heat.
It is unlikely Irving will make jilted Cleveland fans forget James but he may be able to help erase the embarrassment of a 26-game losing streak last season that secured the Cavaliers the number one overall pick.
Irving played in only 11 games last season after suffering a toe injury but the Cavaliers saw enough to convince them that he was a player to rebuild their team around.
The freshman averaged 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in his shortened season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves used the second pick to grab Arizona forward Derrick Williams before the draft suddenly took on an international flavor with the next five picks coming from outside the United States.
With a nasty labor war looming, international players were expected to figure prominently in this year's lottery with several highly rated American college prospects choosing to remain in school and ride out a potential lockout as the NBA and players union negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
The Utah Jazz sparked the foreign invasion by taking Turkish forward Enes Kanter with the third pick while the Cavaliers looked north with the fourth selection to claim Canadian forward Tristan Thompson.
The Toronto Raptors, already one of the NBA's most cosmopolitan teams, added Lithuanian Jonas Valanciunas to their diverse roster while the Washington Wizards went with Czech Jan Vesely.
The Charlotte Bobcats, who worked a last minute trade with the Sacramento Kings to move up to seventh, took Congo big man Bismack Biyembo.
(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue/Ian Ransom)