Former number one overall pick, Anthony Bennett, is on his fourth team in four seasons. Will he be able to rejuvenate a once promising career with the Brooklyn Nets?
I BELIEVE IN ANTHONY BENNETT!
I have from the time I first saw him play as a high school senior at the prestigious Findlay Prep Academy in Nevada. I even doubled down on that belief after a stellar freshman season at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. As a 20 year old, he completely dominated the Mountain West Conference to the tune of 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 53 percent from the field and an impressive 38 percent from deep.
However, things quickly turned south for Bennett once he entered his name into the 2013 NBA Draft. In early May, it was announced that the 6-foot-8 forward would be sidelined for four months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Bennett would be unable to participate in any pre-draft workouts and would not play in Summer League either.
On top of the injury, there were questions about what position Bennett would play in the NBA. At 6-foot-8, he was undersized for a power forward and at 240 pounds, he was too big and slow to be a small forward. Remember, in 2013 “position-less basketball” was a few years away from being en vogue.
Then came June 27, 2013. The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked everyone and selected Bennett with the first pick in the draft. The Cavs were in a full-on rebuild in the post-LeBron James era and it seemed that they had the collections of a team coming together with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Bennett on the roster.
During his rookie year, Bennett got off to an abysmally slow start and eventually was sidelined again after having to deal with asthma and sleep apnea. By the time 2014 rolled around, Bennett was mainly an afterthought or the butt of NBA Twitter jokes. Things remained that way for Bennett until he became part of the rumored Andrew Wiggins-for-Kevin Love trade discussions between Cleveland and Minnesota–orchestrated by none other than Mr. James himself.
Bennett’s time in Minnesota wasn’t much of a fresh start for the Canadian. Despite showing up for training camp in unbelievable shape, it seemed like he collected more DNP-Coach’s Decision than rebounds in his brief time in the Twin Cities.
Yet, there was still enough promise–via long two pointers and two-handed slams–that there is a highlight package on YouTube from his one year with the Timberwolves.
After two seasons of underwhelming play, it was on to another team for Bennett: the Canadian National Team. With the 2015 Pan America Games being held in Toronto, it was a chance for Bennett to get consistent playing time and represent for his home country.
They even defeated Team USA and made it to the finals of the Pan Am tournament, but would lose the gold medal game to Brazil.
Back stateside, he was waived by the Timberwolves on September 23, 2015. However, his play on the Canadian National Team piqued the interest of the Toronto Raptors who brought him in to training camp in 2016. Bennett’s time in Toronto was even more forgettable than his previous two stops in the NBA.
He played in 19 games with the Raptors and six games with their NBA Development League affiliates, the Raptors 905. He would play 23 more minutes in the D-League (107 minutes played) than in the NBA (84 minutes played).
Through three seasons, the number one overall pick has averages of 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, 38.8 percent field goal percentage, and 26 percent three-point field goal percentage in 12.8 minutes per game. Definitely a bust-worthy stat line.
Yet, the Nets still had interest in the 23-year-old and would go on to sign Bennett on July 15 to a two-year minimum deal. We know Brook Lopez is priority number one when it comes to the Nets’ big men, but after that the remainder of the rotation is very up in the air heading into training camp.
Brooklyn was high enough on Chris McCullough that they selected the 6-foot-11 athlete with the 29th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. McCullough was basically redshirted as a rookie as he recovered from a torn ACL that kept him from playing in all but 24 games last year.
The Nets also brought in veterans at the power forward spot with the additions of Luis Scola, 36, and Trevor Booker, 28. Booker pulled in a two-year, $18.5 million dollar deal, while Scola got a one-year, $5.5 million dollar contract from Brooklyn. With $24 million dollars combined, it is likely that these two will see the majority of the minutes at the four this upcoming season.
With only 48 minutes available every night it is almost impossible to split that between four players. If you follow the money it seems that either Scola or Booker are going to start alongside Lopez and whichever of those two don’t start will be the first big off the bench.
McCullough is young enough that he may see more time with the Nets’ new D-League team, the Long Island Nets, so that he can get the minutes and opportunities to really grow and develop his potential.
While the Nets have a multitude of big men heading into the new year, they don’t really have a player like Bennett. Scola is probably their “best” stretch at the moment, but if Bennett can show that the glimpses we’ve seen during his time in the NBA and with Team Canada are not a fluke he immediately becomes their second-best stretch big on the roster.
Kenny Atkinson is an acclaimed player development coach and if the talent is there he could be the one to lift Bennett out of bust territory and into the land of rotational NBA player. This could all be for naught if the Nets feel like there is nothing left in the tank for Bennett than his time in Brooklyn won’t last long.
However, I BELIEVE IN ANTHONY BENNETT, and I think by the end of this season the Brooklyn Nets will have a reason to believe as well.