Why It's Too Early To Write Off Anthony Bennett
“I’m just as surprised as anyone else.”
- Anthony Bennett upon learning he was drafted number 1 overall
Quite frankly, it doesn’t seem that Bennett’s dazed reaction has subsided much given his lackluster play in his rookie campaign.
After posting an impressive 16.1 points with 8.1 rebounds in 27 minutes per game in his lone season at UNLV, Anthony Bennett led many to believe he could have a promising professional career. However, Bennett’s ineffectiveness in UNLV’s first round upset loss to the California Bears in last year's NCAA tournament has continued into the start of his NBA career.
Listed at 6’8” with a 7’1” wingspan and 240 pounds upon drafted, Bennett came into his rookie year unprepared for the NBA. Prior to the 2013 NBA Draft, Bennett underwent rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder that has proven to hinder his development this season. Because of his shoulder injury, Bennett was not able to participate in the Summer League and came into training camp at 260 pounds, 20 pounds over his draft day weight.
Having ample valuable experience time missed, compounded with not focusing on his conditioning coming into the season, Bennett was already a step behind his fellow draft peers in terms of development. At the start of the season, Bennett was not able to get on the court for many meaningful minutes due to his inability to run up and down the floor without suffering from his complications of asthma and sleep apnea.
However, having barely cracked the Cleveland Cavaliers' rotation until recently, Bennett is finally showing signs of life. He has been able to improve on his conditioning on the court, which has mustered more minutes from Mike Brown.
“I give the kid a lot of credit, he’s had a tough start, a really tough start," Brown said of Bennett, per Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Bennett’s two highest offensive usages on the court are what scouts had raved about. A quarter of Bennett’s offensive possessions, he uses his bread and butter spot-up shot for a putrid 0.59 PPP (points per play). Sixteen percent of the time, Bennett goes through his signature pop and pop role for a sordid 0.59 PPP per Synergy Sports. Over time with more experience, Bennett will improve on these low numbers when he becomes more confident in his own ability.
Bennett must learn to establish a post-up (8 percent) game, so it will allow him to become a more versatile offensive player. One of the major knocks on Bennett coming into the draft was his inability to shoot a jump hook when posting up. Often times at UNLV, his post-up moves would lead him to shoot a low percentage fade away shots rather than a simple jump hook.
In order for Bennett to get on the floor more consistently, he must improve his defensive awareness, the blueprint to the type of basketball Brown coaches. Scouts have always been very critical of Bennett with his lack of focus and hustle on the defensive end.
Kevin Love should be someone Bennett has on his speed dial to talk about how his workout and diet regime has allowed him to become a superstar. Like Bennett, Love came into the league overweight, but was able to trim his body weight to become a perennial All-Star.
Describing Bennett’s start to his career as a disappointment would be deemed an understatement. The undersized power forward is gradually starting to show flashes of the athletic talent that made him at least appear to be a strong lottery pick.