COMMENTARY | In a draft with multiple prospects linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the No. 1 spot last Thursday, the Cavaliers chose "None of the Above" in taking Anthony Bennett first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft.
The 6'7'', 240-pound power forward from UNLV is yet another draft-day shocker on GM Chris Grant's résumé.
After taking Tristan Thompson fourth two years ago, followed by Dion Waiters at No. 4 in last year's draft, it is safe to say that Grant is a mock drafter's worst nightmare after he passed on top-rated prospects Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Alex Len, Otto Porter and Victor Oladipo to grab the dark horse in Bennett in what would go down as one of the most unpredictable drafts in NBA history.
And it's hard to be upset at the Cavaliers for taking somewhat of a gamble on Bennett when you consider the risks involved with all the top prospects:
Nerlens Noel has a questionable knee and severely limited offensive skills, Ben McLemore has been said to have dubious maturity issues and next to no ability to handle the ball, Alex Len is a European center (not typically very impressive at the pro level) with an injury history of his own, Porter's athleticism and ability to shoot off the dribble leave a lot to be desired, and while Victor Oladipo was a guy considered to be one of the safest picks in the draft, the Cavaliers already have an athletic, slashing shooting guard on the roster in Waiters.
That's why Bennett makes sense. You have an unspoken obligation to find a player with star potential when you have the first pick, and as maybe the best overall offensive player in the draft, Bennett fits that bill for the Cavs.
As a freshman at UNLV, Bennett averaged 16 points on 53 percent shooting and 8 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. Besides being able to drive to the basket, Bennett has a quality mid-range jumper as well as a serviceable 3-point shot (38 percent for the year). On top of that, his point-per-minute average was higher than Noel, McLemore, Len, Porter and Oladipo. For a team sorely lacking in scoring--especially in the front court--the Cavaliers will look to Bennett to be a consistent force on offensive to take the pressure off of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
The Cavs ranked second to last in the league in field goal percentage last year. With the bulk of the offense generated from the Irving and Waiters at point guard and shooting guard, having someone able to score at the rim will be a much-needed asset to complement Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson in the Cavaliers' front court, both of whom specialize in defense and rebounding.
There are concerns about Bennett though. As a power forward, Bennett's strength isn't in his post play; he likes to face-up rather than play on the block. Also, his weight and conditioning has been a concern. Bennett's weight reportedly jumped 20 pounds to around 260 after he underwent surgery after the season for a torn rotator cuff suffered during the year, which is a bit of a concern in and of itself. The biggest question on Bennett though is that his height (6'7'') and overall game translates to him being a type of small forward-power forward hybrid in the pros. This could especially be a hindrance on the defensive end, as Bennett could struggle against bigger post players or quicker small forwards depending on the lineup the Cavaliers are playing.
But for all of his potential drawbacks, when you see Bennett take the ball up court and attack the rim in transition, you can't help but think of another undersized power forward, Charles Barkley, who attacked the rim like a fullback.
What Bennett's ceiling is going to be in the pros is a mystery. It doesn't take long watching him play, though, to recognize that he is going to give the Cavaliers a dynamic piece that they have been sorely lacking in the past few years.
If Bennett can produce consistently as the Cavs' second or third option next year, the Cavaliers' abysmal 20-something win seasons will be a thing of the past.
And if the Cavaliers can begin to convert their young prospects' potential into playoff appearances, Cavs' fans can look back on Chris Grant's willingness to mortgage the team's future on draft-day wildcards like Thompson, Waiters and Bennett as the start of it all.
Adam Redling is a freelance writer from Cleveland, OH. He covers the Cavaliers for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Anthony Bennett
- Dion Waiters
- Tristan Thompson
- Nerlens Noel
- Victor Oladipo