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Who is Anthony Bennett?

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Photo Courtesy of  David Liam Kyle/NBAE.

Photo Courtesy of David Liam Kyle/NBAE.

That’s the question that has consumed my mind in the days, weeks and months since the Cleveland Cavaliers selected the combo forward No. 1 overall in 2013 NBA Draft.

The selection of Bennett did not come without criticism. Most pundits believed that the Kentucky center and defensive specialist Nerlens Noel was the likely first overall pick, but the Cavaliers obviously thought differently.

Why did the team come to such a conclusion? Yep, you guessed it — ceiling. The Cavaliers reportedly felt as if Bennett was the player in the draft who had the best chance of having a major impact in the pros.

So, that now brings us back to the original question. What exactly is Bennett’s ceiling?

Well, after four games, it certainly isn’t looking very high.

In fact, instead of worrying about the ceiling, let’s focus on the floor because there might be some questions about that as well.

In four games thus far, Bennett is averaging 12.8 minutes per game, yet he has yet to score an NBA field goal. He’s gone 0-for-15 from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range. The two points that he has scored came on free throws.

ESPN offered a bit of clarity on the topic of Bennett in a piece that was released Tuesday evening. According to the story, Bennett is setting new records in terms of futility for a first overall pick.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Bennett’s two points are the fewest for a No. 1 pick through four games in the common draft era (since 1966). He’s also the fifth rookie since 1985 to begin his career by not scoring a basket in the first four games. But the catch to that is that none of the previous four were picked No. 1 overall.

So, how bad has it been?

The paragraph above kind of helps to illustrate the picture, but has it really been that bad?

Sadly, it has.

For reference, let’s take a look at the numbers through four games for all of the No. 1 overall draft picks over the past 25 years.

Take a look:

Year Player FGS Made-Attempted Total Points

1989

Pervis Ellison 10-for-27

22

1990

Derrick Coleman 20-for-47

50

1991

Larry Johnson 15-for-32

43

1992

Shaquille O’Neal 39-for-68

100

1993

Chris Webber 29-for-53

68

1994

Glenn Robinson 18-for-52

47

1995

Joe Smith 26-for-51

61

1996

Allen Iverson 34-for-69

101

1997

Tim Duncan 27-for-46

62

1998

Michael Olowokandi 19-for-38

52

1999

Elton Brand 16-for-41

50

2000

Kenyon Martin 20-for-53

44

2001

Kwame Brown 6-for-16

19

2002

Yao Ming 5-for-15

10

2003

LeBron James 26-for-60

61

2004

Dwight Howard 14-for-27

37

2005

Andrew Bogut 17-for-32

38

2006

Andrea Bargnani 6-for-18

14

2007

Greg Oden 8-for-18

27

2008

Derrick Rose 37-for-59

69

2009

Blake Griffin 25-for-56

67

2010

John Wall 28-for-63

84

2011

Kyrie Irving 20-for-51

53

2012

Anthony Davis 21-for-43

60

2013

Anthony Bennett 0-for-15

2

Yikers.

There is no denying that Bennett’s offensive performance is about as ugly as it can get for a player, especially a player that’s drafted No. 1 overall.

If you take a look at the list of all the previous players drafted No. 1 overall before Bennett, it’s clear that not every one of them became a superstar (cough, Kwame Brown, cough). Yet, it’s also clear that none of them got off to a more brutal start than Bennett. Hell, none of them were even close.

Of course, it is important to temper our expectations and remember that four games is still an incredibly small sample size, especially in a league like the NBA. However, it’s also important to remember that his current start is not just bad, it’s the worst — ever.

At UNLV, Bennett was known for his athleticism and fearless ability to slash to the basket. He had a knack for scoring, and it’s likely that knack that ultimately led the Cavaliers to take a gamble and draft him No. 1 overall.

Yet, in four games, he’s looked sluggish, slow and rushed when he gets the ball. It’s easy to see that he wants to score, but that want and desire also seems to be somewhat of a hindrance at the moment.

There are a number of reasons that everyone should want Bennett to succeed. Heck, it could even be argued that the Cavaliers need Bennett to succeed.

Since acquiring Kyrie Irving in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Cavaliers have long sought after a dynamic scorer to pair with the All-Star point guard. Dion Waiters showed it in glimpses last season, but it’s fair to say that this is a need the Cavaliers are still attempting to fill.

Bennett seems to have as good of a chance as anyone on the current team to fill that role, but he’s been so underwhelming to this point that it’s hard to be encouraged. Ideally, Bennett will one day move out of the backup power forward role and into the starting small forward position, but he’s looked so slow so far that one has to question if he could even make the transition?

We all know that the Cavaliers are likely going to be shopping for a small forward next season, and the most probable candidate is Cleveland’s fallen son LeBron James. Yet, in a perfect world, Bennett shows great development as a rookie at that position, so the prospect of acquiring James or another small forward becomes a luxury and not a necessity. Yet, as of now, it’s clear that we’re a long ways away from Bennett making such progress.

So, with that being said, where do we stand?

Well, again, remember that it is just four games. Joe Smith was drafted No. 1 overall in 1995 and averaged over 15 points per game in the first four games he played, yet his career average was 10.9, so that just goes to show how small a sample size four games really is.

However, the sad reality is that every single No. 1 overall pick in the NBA’s history has gotten off to a more impressive four-game start than Bennett’s in 2013. Small sample size be damned — that is a legitimate red flag.

The best course of action is to revisit this discussion again after 10 games, 15 games, 20 games, etc. Bennett is still just 20-years-old, and the NBA is a much different world than the Mountain West Conference that he was used to at UNLV.

As for his ceiling? Well, at this point, who knows?

Let’s just hope he gets a chance to reach it before he crashes to the floor.

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3 thoughts on “Who is Anthony Bennett?

  1. Pingback: Quick thoughts on the Cavs post-Bynum | Cleveland Sports Insiders

  2. I agree with the piece a lot, and thanks Steve, for finding those stats on the first round picks. Was pondering doing that myself.

    It’s not alarming when you keep Bennett at arm’s length. It is alarming when you look at the body of work of all the first rounders.

    There’s lots to like about Bennett though. I think he has a nose for the basket, and believe that as he gets into shape, he’ll add minutes and gain some flow.

    I also tend to believe that he’ll be a plus rebounder…a guy that can grab at least eight boards a game.

    But boy, it is alarming…right?

    Just hoping that he gets that one game where he just breaks out…and becomes a great story, and not a cautionary tale.

  3. The start is certainly alarming, but he also isn’t playing as many minutes as many number one picks. Plus, he isn’t a franchise savior, so the team isn’t relying on him for scoring. It’s obviously not an ideal start, but he can definitely turn it around and make everyone forget this by the end of the season.

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