Rookie forward Anthony Bennett looked fantastic in the exhibition season. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ surprise top overall selection in last June’s draft even cobbled together a 16-point fourth quarter in one victory over the Orlando Magic, outplaying fellow rookie Victor Oladipo along the way, giving hope that the versatile big man’s scoring skills would translate to the pro game after just one season at UNLV.
We’re four games and 50 minutes into his NBA career, though, and things aren’t working out. Bennett missed his first 15 NBA shots, leaving him 0-15 on the season, and if his work against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday is any evidence, Bennett’s confidence might be at low ebb. Bennett looked alternately passive and unsure in his fourth NBA game, unable to help his mates as the Wolves came back from a 23-point second half deficit to hold onto a one-point win.
Following the game, Bennett’s Twitter account skulked into a darkened room:
It’s important to note that this is a 20-year old kid, born just three months prior to John Paxson hitting the championship-clincher in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals, and this is how some (very!) young professionals tend to handle things via social media. Secondly, because the 2013 NBA draft was considered so weak, Bennett’s “eh, what the hell?”-selection led to perhaps the most casually overlooked top pick debut in recent NBA history, with the forward coming off the bench for a 15-minute stint against Brooklyn on a 14-game Wednesday last week.
[Yahoo Fantasy Basketball: Manage your team with free live scoring, stats and advice]
Perhaps the most worrying thing about Bennett’s early-career swoon is his shot selection. Anthony can make three-pointers and should be considered a threat from long range, and the Cavs haven’t done him any favors by trying to squish him into a small forward’s role at times, but the young man has taken over half of those 15 shot attempts from long range. While it’s true that his work around the rim (0-5) has resulted in the same (nil) percentage, this Antoine Walker-y turn could leave Cavaliers fans a little anxious.
According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal, though, both the Cavs and Bennett seem to have their heads and hearts in the right place:
His teammates keep telling him to drive to the basket, but so far he isn't really listening. They keep telling him he's one of the most athletic players on the team, but he's reducing himself to just a 3-point shooter. The amazing thing is defenses continue to guard him like a dangerous 3-point shooter. The Timberwolves kept defenders right in his face Monday, which should make it easier for him to beat guys off the dribble. So far, however, he hasn't taken advantage of it.
Bennett, unfortunately, looks like a lost soul right now. He tweeted after the game he was going "ghost" for a little while, which is another way of saying he's going off the grid. That's probably not a bad idea. Bennett was one of the last guys off the court following shootaround Monday morning and he said he was going in during Sunday's off day to get more shots up, so a lack of work isn't the problem. He just has no confidence in anything he's doing. A couple of days to clear his head could be just what he needs.
On top of the 2013 draft weirdness, we should also keep in mind that Bennett missed the NBA’s Summer League due to shoulder surgery, and that he’s still working out the kinks of that rehabilitation on top of the usual NCAA-to-preseason-to-fo’ real pangs and pains.
Toss in his role as a hoped-for bench scorer, his unique tweener position and multiple offensive skills (which can sometimes lead to unfocused attempts from the field), plus his pecking order on a team featuring Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, an improved Tristan Thompson (sopping up minutes at Bennett’s natural position) and at times Andrew Bynum, and you have an odd situation that isn’t doing the rookie any favors.
So go ghost, young man. Your skills and your All-Star potential will be waiting here when you get back. This is just a 50-minute blip.
- - - - - - -