Anthony Bennett’s professional basketball career has hit another snag. The No. 1 overall pick in the infamous 2013 NBA draft, noted for its thin veneer and even skinnier allotment of prospects, has been cut by his pro squad in Turkey. The 24-year old, who bounced from the Cavaliers to Timberwolves to Toronto to the Nets while also working through a pair of inefficient D-League turns, was cut from his Turkish Basketbol Süper Ligi (BSL) squad during its playoff turn this week.
Bennett was dealt from Cleveland to Minnesota in 2014’s Kevin Love deal, a move that also sent 2014 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins to the Wolves. After falling in Minnesota, the 6-9 forward was unable to resurrect his career in his hometown of Toronto, prior to being cut by a Brooklyn Nets team that used 2016-17 as an extended tryout camp.
The club decided to assign Pero Antic back to the BSL roster, which has limited spots for non Turkish players. That made Bennett the odd man out after seven BSL games, during which he averaged 9 ppg and 6.4 rpg, playing 23 minutes per game.
So far Bennett has also played in nine EuroLeague games, averaging 1.3 ppg and having very small contribution to the Turkish team, which will be the host of the EuroLeague Final Four.
The report confirms that Pero Antic, a 6-11 former Hawks center best known for his semi-successful turn as a stretch-five during the 2014 playoffs, and his proximity to the unfortunate 2015 nightclub incident between New York City police, Antic, and teammate Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha later sued the NYPD, earning $4 million in a settlement, while the charges against Antic were dropped.
Bennett’s basketball ignominy runs deeper. A surprise top pick in a weak draft by former Cleveland Cavalier general Chris Grant, the UNLV product was counted upon to act as a reliable, if limited, all-around scorer with smooth touch. His seemingly refined offensive game, showcased in spite of a shoulder injury that limited his lone year at the school, stood out (to the Cavaliers, at least) amongst the other, less refined, prospects that the 2013 draft offered.
This was the class that would eventually hand us Michael Carter-Williams, NBA Rookie of the Year, so Bennett’s placement among the crew is hardly his fault. His top overall selection wasn’t his fault either, and neither was the incompetency that the Cleveland Cavalier franchise met him with upon his entrance into the pro ranks.
It should have been obvious to all involved that a project like this needed a special line of interest, of development and attention. From front office down to the practice court, all the way toward coach Mike Brown’s estimation of the game from the sideline, the Grant-led Cavaliers completely failed Anthony Bennett.
He was not a good basketball player, in ways that have sustained from town to town, from chance to chance. Still, there is a big difference between acting as a blown No. 1 overall pick (half of most NBA draft re-drafts typically replace one No. 1 pick with another lesser pick, after achieving perfect hindsight) and a player that is out of the NBA at age 23.
Or knocked from the Turkish League, in favor of Pero Antic, by age 24.
On the eve of the BSL postseason, Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Mark Anderson checked in with Bennett’s former high school coach Todd Simon, in a bid to address the forward’s prospects moving forward:
“I know what Anthony at his best is like,” said Simon, now Southern Utah’s coach and the former UNLV interim coach. “It’s just a different path for him to get to that. Sometimes you’ve got to go to a place and be on the floor and impact your team’s winning to get back on the track you need to be on. I think he’s got a lot of basketball ahead of him, and I don’t think this will be the last that anyone’s heard of him.”
Washington assistant Dave Rice coached Bennett in 2012-13, his lone season at UNLV, where he averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as the Rebels went 25-10 and made the NCAA Tournament.
“There’s a story yet to be written,” Rice said. “I have every confidence in him he’s going to be able to make it back to the NBA and have a very solid career.”
The forward averaged 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 13 minutes per game, averaged over the course of only 151 total NBA games. There is a strong chance Bennett will be back in an NBA team’s training camp this fall – he is 6-9, he remains young and still has three or four years to change absolutely everything about his approach before his prime hits – but rarely do NBA falls come as swiftly as this.
By 2013, one would think that both club and player would have figured out how to put the life of an unheralded, promising prospect together, but the Cavaliers and Bennett mutually assured themselves some historic levels of destruction with that partnership.
By the fall of 2017, when NBA camps commence, we may have another chance to get this act together. Anthony Bennett will have to vault over a whole series of established, Pero Antic-types in order to get an NBA gig, however. His obstacles will return with him to North America, as he sets to restarting his professional career all over again.
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