Has the NBA version of this story – now that he’s been cut by a team that has no vested interest in doing anything beyond showcasing professionalism – finally wrung itself out? Has Anthony Bennett played his final NBA game, just three and a half years after serving as the league’s No. 1 overall draft pick?
The Vertical reported on Monday that the Brooklyn Nets had cut Bennett in favor of veteran former Mavericks forward Quincy Acy, who was cut by a 2-9 team earlier this year. The Nets acted as the third team to waive Anthony in the last 16 months, with the Timberwolves and Raptors already having given up on the 23-year old. The UNLV product boasts career averages of just 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 12.6 minutes a contest, spread out over 151 NBA games.
He stands a chance to go down as the worst NBA top overall pick in post-shot clock history, because even Dick Garmaker made it six years.
How did this go so poorly for the 6-8 forward? Bennett was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013 in what stood at the time as the squad’s second No. 1 overall draft pick in three years, with another top overall pick yet to come in 2014. At no point did any major scouting nor sports media outlet rank Bennett as the top talent in the draft that year, even mindful of the fact that (following top-ranked Nerlens Noel’s knee injury during the NCAA regular season) the usual crew of lottery selections didn’t appear to have a breakout star.
Weirdly, parity ruled and a too-clever-by-half Cleveland Cavaliers front office took care of all the rest. After attempting to deal the pick, the Cavs went cheeky and selected Bennett following an injury-plagued, 16.1-point and 8.1-rebound freshman season at UNLV. Reactions varied from the shocked to the sanguine – no, Bennett didn’t have the look of a typical top overall pick, but in an awful draft such as this the guaranteed win of a pretty good scoring power forward might have been enough.
All Bennett had to do was follow through.
The picks that came directly after him – Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Alex Len and Noel – have hardly set the league on fire as a collective. The prize of the class, 2013-14 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, is on his third NBA team. The 2013 NBA draft probably won’t feature an All-Star until this year, when 15th overall pick Giannis Antetokounmpo should make the squad.
This was a low bar, and somehow Bennett still found a way to slide under it.
He averaged 4.2 points and three rebounds in 12.8 minutes a contest with the Cavaliers in 2013-14, never starting in 52 games. He said he’d be open to a D-League stint, something that would have given the player the needed reps and minutes to boost his confidence in the face of a Cavs team that wouldn’t play him, but the Cavs declined to the great dishonor of all.
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Traded to Minnesota following his rookie season in a package that sent the Cavaliers’ next top overall pick Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love, Bennett had myriad opportunities to shine on yet another bad team, but he managed just under 14 minutes a contest, starting three times. Bennett averaged 7.3 points (10-23 shooting), 5.7 rebounds and two assists in just 22.3 minutes a game during those starts, with zero turnovers and five fouls.
Waived by the Wolves after just one year, Bennett struggled during his stint with the Toronto Raptors, openly asking for a minor league demotion at one point after failing to crack the rotation on a great team following two misses on terrible clubs in Cleveland and Minnesota. He shot under 30 percent from the floor with the team.
Cut by the Raptors, Bennett grasped onto a Brooklyn Nets team that, in working without its top overall pick this season, is essentially holding a season-long tryout camp. His five points and 3.4 rebounds in 11 minutes a night weren’t worth keeping a flyer on, though, as the club went with the veteran (at just three years older than Bennett) inside guidance of Acy, who was cut from the Mavericks mostly due to a sprained ankle.
Bennett’s pink slip carries a bit more weight. It’s true that he shouldn’t have been a top overall pick, but it’s also worth considering (had Bennett grown into a Greg Monroe-type) playing it safe in a draft nobody was really smitten with. The Cavaliers completely dropped the ball in their handling of Bennett as a rookie, but Anthony has also had years to put something together. Even Michael Sweetney had encouraging per-minute stats. Even Ike Diogu finished his first contract, and got two more after that.
This is a long season, and even given the current political climate even the 2017-18 season should also last from next October until April. There are plenty of roster spots to fill in what has become a top-heavy league with disparate season-to-season outlooks, and there are various reasons as to why yet another team would take a chance on Anthony Bennett. After all, Bennett won’t turn 24 until March.
He’s got a lot to work on. Even after considering the mitigating factors that weren’t his fault, Anthony Bennett’s professional early 20s to this point have acted as a colossal failure.
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