Not many expected Anthony Bennett to be the number one overall pick in this past June’s NBA draft. No one would have thought that it would’ve taken Bennett until the fifth game of the season to record his first NBA field goal.
The broad-shouldered Canadian and UNLV product, has good footwork, can put the ball on the floor, has a respectable jump shot, including stretching all the way out to the three-point line and is continuing to learn how to use his strength and athleticism in the low post.
So what gives with the slow start?
To say that it stems from Bennett rushing things and not being fully comfortable on the NBA stage would be accurate but lazy. Even if you haven’t seen this year’s number one overall pick play, you could make this assessment.
But the North of the border import’s problems go beyond this.
Head coach Mike Brown is calling effective plays that are designed to get Bennett open and are being executed well, including by Bennett himself. But the problem is that these sets are exclusively designed to free up Bennett for a jump shot or a three-pointer. With the rookie struggling, Brown needs to let Bennett establish himself, by simply letting him see the ball go through the hoop, instead of clank off the rim.
Allowing the 6″8, 256 lbs small forward take advantage of his size down low, particularly when matched up against more traditional wings, could do wonders for his confidence and help make him more comfortable in the offense. Bennett is also responsible for not going down to the blocks nearly as much as he should be. He will fight for rebounds down low but seldom looks to establish himself in the post. Of course, part of that is due to Cleveland’s personnel, which now includes Andrew Bynum and a healthy Anderson Varejao. But with the latter’s passing ability and forward Tristan Thompson shooting a tick under 43 percent between eight and sixteen feet, there are certainly plenty of opportunities to be had for Bennett in the low post.
Another facet of Bennett’s game that Cleveland should look to exploit is his ability to attack the basket. If he can stay low, his impressive combination of size and athleticism, coupled with his ball handling skills, allow for him to keep defenders on his front shoulder, as he bulldozes his way to the basket. For now, the lanes are clogged with the Cavaliers’ gluttony of big men, but if coach Brown can figure out how to create the necessary space for Bennett to attack the basket from mid-range, the rookie can work on not only creating opportunities for himself but for the team’s more traditionalized big men as well.