1. Anthony Bennett – 2013 – Rd 1, Pick 1
The vast majority of NBA fans, especially Cavs fans, would have easily predicted this final selection. Coming out of UNLV, Bennett had tremendous athleticism and seemed primed to endure the physical play of the NBA. Bennett dropped 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game at UNLV, and the Cavaliers were excited to select him first overall as a forward pairing with Irving and Waiters.
In Summer League, Bennett looked like he was going to change the trajectory for the club. An instant success, SB Nation compared Bennett’s ceiling to NBA legend Larry Bird. The level of hype surrounding Bennett was reminiscent of LeBron James, something that surely enticed the Cavaliers. Their choice to draft Bennett was justified, especially by his domination in Summer League.
Everything quickly went downhill once opening night arrived. Bennett was still shocking, but in polar opposite fashion. On opening night against the Brooklyn Nets, Bennett logged only 15 minutes off the bench, going 0-of-5 from the field. He ended with two points scored from four free throw attempts. That season, Bennett’s confidence seemed to disappear. He averaged 4.2 points and shot 35.6 percent from the field (24.5 percent from 3-point range).
Like his predecessors, the Cavaliers gave up on Bennett after one season, sending him to Minnesota in an attempt to erase him from their memories. After one season in Minnesota, Bennett spent a year with Toronto, a year with Brooklyn, and then left the NBA after four seasons.
As aforementioned, for every LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, the Cavs draft a fair share of busts. Bennett’s career was an indicator that hype does not always translate, and his story might be the definitive example of an NBA bust.
In recent years, the Cavaliers have done much better in the draft, drafting Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. No front office will be perfect in draft predictions, making every success story that much more memorable and worthy of appreciation.