As I finished up my one-on-one interview with Anderson Varejao and the “Wild Thing” was heading out the door after last night’s 98-91 loss to the Wizards I looked around the locker room and noticed that I was the last reporter left and there was only one player left as well, Anthony Bennett.
The number one overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft was still sitting at his locker, no shirt on, just shorts, staring at the wall. He looked dejected, confused and bewildered because of another night of ineffectiveness and very little playing time. The hometown fans had just booed him earlier in the night after he shot another air ball from long range. I’ve covered the NBA for over 20 years now, and yes they get paid a lot of money to play a game and it’s hard to feel sorry for them because of that, but as I made my way out of the locker room, that’s exactly how I felt for Bennett.
I disagreed and was shocked when the Cavaliers selected Bennett with the first pick. I would have taken Ben McLemore or Otto Porter Jr. or Alex Len over Bennett and I have voiced my displeasure about it numerous times. So far it looks like a horrible selection by Cavs G.M. Chris Grant. Bennett is so bad through the first 12 games of this season, that undrafted players like Henry Simms and Mathew Dellavedova are playing more minutes now and averaging more points per game than the top “Lottery Pick”!
Bennett’s numbers are frighteningly bad – 1.3 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game. His shooting numbers are even worse, a dismal 13% from the field, only 7% from 3-point range and just 50% from the free throw line. Those shooting numbers are all last on the team in every category. Hard to fathom from the top player picked in the draft.
Because of his struggles Mike Brown has pretty much taken him out of the rotation at this point, and it’s the right move. This kid’s head is spinning right now. He’s working hard, trying hard, but nothing is going right. No athlete wants to fail, or wants to lose, so it’s not like he’s playing poorly on purpose, he’s just not good right now and there aren’t any signs that he’s going to get better any time soon.
So what should the Cavs do with him? I talked to a few people last night to see if the D-League was an option, but everyone agreed that’s not the answer at this point. It may do more harm than good to his already fragile psyche. So all the Cavs can do is tell him how important practice is. Tell him to keep working hard. Tell him to get in better shape and that it’s going to get better. Hell, it can’t get any worse! There’s only one way to go and that’s up. Mike Brown needs to pick his spots for Bennett in games so he can have some success. Either in a blowout win or loss, make Bennett the focal point on offense in garbage time just so he can see the ball go through the hoop and maybe gain some confidence back.
There’s a long way to go in this season and in Bennett’s career, and while it’s not time to panic, it is time to be very concerned about the short comings so far of Anthony Bennett’s game. I really don’t want to say I told you so on draft night and maybe 12 games is too small of a sample size, but so far it’s looking that way. Here’s hoping that Bennett is just a slow starter and learner and will eventually figure this thing out for his sake and the Cavaliers sake. If not he’ll been mentioned forever with the likes of Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi and LaRue Martin as complete busts in the NBA. But more importantly he’ll set the Cavs organization back a number of years as they try and become relevant again and challenge for an NBA championship. If that happens, there’s no way anyone, including myself, will feel sorry for Anthony Bennett.