As the 2013-2014 NBA Season finally approaches, it’s as good a time as ever to take at look at each player on the Cleveland Cavaliers roster. Up until opening night, the entire RDE staff will breakdown the entire Cavaliers roster. This profile looks at Anthony Bennett.
Tale of the Tape:
Name: Anthony Bennett
Years Experience: Rookie
Years with Cavaliers: First
Weight: 250 pounds
Contract: Rookie contract: Earning $5.3 million this season.
The Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett first in this summer’s NBA draft, over guys like Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, and Nerlens Noel. It was a questionable decision to say the least. Let’s look at the Cavs’ new project and figure out what we can expect this season, one of the biggest questions for the team.
Bennett’s incredibly long for a 6’7 forward, making his short stature as a potential power forward a slightly lesser problem. The thought is that Bennett can play small forward or power forward, although his long-term future should be as an undersized NBA power forward. He should be playing around 245 pounds during the season, big enough to body up with power forwards, but still quick enough to not be at a disadvantage against small forwards. Bennett’s athleticism is excellent for someone his size as well, and he’s a great leaper, although he doesn’t always use it.
Here’s where Bennett’s struggles appear to be. The big red flag, which has been brought up ad nauseum, is his defensive effort. Bennett doesn’t always get back on D, and when he’s there, it doesn’t seem like he understands what is going on. For Bennett to be a productive NBA player, he’s going to have to give some effort on defense, though that should come slowly, much like the development of Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving on that end. His effort on the offensive end is better, but can sometimes ebb and flow with the way the game is unfolding. Really, there’s not much else to talk about in the intangible regard; Bennett giving a crap would be huge for his impact in the NBA.
From my preview of Bennett before the draft:
Bennett’s offensive game is interesting because he’s really good at everything. He’s an excellent outside shooter for his position, hitting on 38 percent of his threes while at UNLV and getting better as the season went along. He really has a great shooting motion for a big as well, looking very fluid in his jumper. He’s also really good attacking off the dribble and finishing on fast breaks. He’s the closest anyone in this draft comes to simulating a freight train on the break, someone who shows no hesitation to dunk on someone’s face or draw contact. That translates into the half court game as well, where Bennett’s way too fast for most power forwards to keep up with him when he attacks a crease. In the post, he’s not great with his back to the basket, but that will come. He’s very impressive attacking in the post while facing up his defender, and he’s definitely willing to bang down low, an adept offensive rebounder who has great instincts and can clean up and affect the game even when his shots aren’t falling. When the biggest problem Bennett has is back-to-the-basket positioning, which can easily be taught by the right coach, we’re basically just nitpicking. Bennett is a monster on offense, and he’s got a lot of room to improve as well. As far as position, offensively I feel like Bennett can play power forward in the NBA; he’s quick enough, strong enough and long enough to overcome his short frame. He could be a small forward as well, similar to how Thaddeus Young has played both positions as a pro, but ultimately I think playing in the post is where Bennett will be most effective.
When Bennett decides to actually contribute to the cause on defense, he can be pretty good! Bennett’s strong on the boards, using his instincts and length to overcome his size down low. He’s also not an awful post defender, though I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a strength. He has little to no understanding of help defense, but one-on-one on the perimeter, he can get the job done if he’s trying. However, as mentioned before, he’s rarely trying. If anything, he will just pull a Reggie Evans and consistently park down low for rebounds. This effort issue has to change, and I feel will change with good defensive instruction. But in the early going this season, expect to get frustrated by Bennett defensively.
How does Bennett fit in on the Cavaliers?
Bennett has been coming off the bench for the Cavs, and I’d expect he will for a majority of the season. He provides a nice offensive spark with the second unit, and if you sub in, say, Bennett for Earl Clark and Jarrett Jack for Dion Waiters midway through the first quarter, it allows the Cavs to attack the opponent with an offensively loaded lineup for a few minutes. Bennett will likely be playing both small forward and power forward minutes for the Cavs this season and will likely play chained to Anderson Varejao and/or Tristan Thompson due to his defensive struggles, at least early in the season. Offensively, the Cavs will expect Bennett to be an effective inside/outside weapon that can help stretch the offense out, as well as provide some unconventional looks for opponents to have to deal with. I don’t think Bennett’s going to be anything special this season, but he should give the team an interesting bench option. I really hope he doesn’t have to play 30 minutes a game this season, because people get hurt.