The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the basketball world when they selected UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Bennett instantly became the highest drafted Canadian player in the history of the NBA. The question now for the 6-foot-8 power forward is whether he can enjoy success in the NBA.
It’s important to be clear that Bennett clearly has the potential to be a starter in the NBA. It is also worth noting that he doesn’t deserve comparison to most first overall picks, because the fact remains that this year’s draft was easily one of the weakest in recent history. However, Bennett will clearly always face comparison with other players from his own draft year. Now that he has been taken as a hugely surprising first overall pick, he is bound to garner comparison against other players more highly favored to get picked up in that spot.
Bennett had a dominant college basketball skill set. He has a reasonably wide frame and dominated the post game in college. He also possesses pretty decent shooting ability and shot just below 40% from three-point range in his freshmen season. The big question mark is whether he can convert that game to the NBA level.
The first major question mark is which position he will play. Cleveland have stated that they see him as a power forward, which is a little confusing considering the presence of 2011 fourth overall pick Tristan Thompson and the success he enjoyed in his second professional season.
It just isn’t clear whether Bennett has the height or strength to be as successful in the post offensively as an NBA power forward. He may be forced to rely more seriously upon his jump shot shooting and that could be a concern for the balance of the Cavaliers’ line-up. Of even more concern might be Bennett’s ability to defend as a power forward. He didn’t play particularly good defensive basketball in college, but he will struggle to get away with that at the top level, especially considering the fact that he is unlikely to be an offensive star.
Small forward is the second most obvious point of call. At that position there are concerns about Bennett’s quickness and agility, not to mention problems defending against the three. How much do the Cavaliers really want to rely upon Bennett’s shooting game at NBA level as well?
This is the conundrum that perhaps makes Bennett a slightly perplexing pick-up, especially compared against a far safer pick like Nerlens Noel, or even a trade.
However, there is something to be said about the strength of Bennett’s character and it is very clear that he impressed Cleveland’s management group. He has the look of a young man ready and willing to improve his game, and ready to do the work to make it happen. He will probably start his rookie season with the opportunity to play from the bench and will probably play in both positions at times. Bennett is a player who will soon find his feet at NHL level.