Greg Oden recently declared he was the “biggest bust” in NBA history. Yes, perhaps, if you forget there was such a person as Anthony Bennett.
In 2013, the Cleveland Cavaliers had the number one pick in the NBA Draft. They chose Anthony Bennett. To say that Bennett shouldn’t have been a number one pick on anyone’s draft board would be say the obvious, like the ocean is blue, water is wet, snow is cold. But Team Dan Gilbert thought they were being clever, that they had discovered a diamond in the rough. To be fair to Gilbert and Co. that draft class was particularly weak. Victor Oladipo was the number two pick. Otto Porter was the number three pick. Cody Zeller was the number four pick. No first round player from the draft class of 2013 has been an All-Star.
The Cavs, in that year of being experimental, grabbed Bennett and they were particularly miserable with Kyrie Irving leading things, debunking the theory that Irving could carry a bad team to an 8th or 9th seed in an inept Eastern Conference. Irving’s talent was singular then, Hall of Fame worthy yes, but it didn’t affect the whole, just individual parts. That year the Cavs were coached (again) by Mike Brown, as if the first marriage with Brown had ended with roses and a championship crown and not Brown being shoved out the door and furloughed to ESPN.
In 2013-14, Brown wanted what he always wanted: defense. The young Cavs rebelled, resisted, tuned him out and just basically did what they wanted in total opposition to him. There were a lot of humiliating losses that season but playing the Lakers on February 5 was probably one of the worst of the bunch.
The Lakers had eight players active. Jordan Farmar left with an injury. Same with Nick Young. The Lakers were down to six players. Surely the Cavs, at full strength, would capitalize on a bad, thin, hopeless Kobe-less team. In the 4th quarter, Lakers center Chris Kaman fouled out. The Lakers were down to 5 players. Kaman’s back up, the forgettable Robert Sacre, then fouled out. The Lakers had four players available. Sacre was allowed to continue because a game has to have five players.
The absurdity of this version of the Cavs was that they couldn’t force anything; their Mike Brown defense was a sieve of apathy. The Lakers scoring 119 points was like a 92 year old grandma running a marathon under four minutes: near impossible without some kind of help. Lakers guard Steve Blake had a triple double playing with a ruptured eardrum. It was the Cavs sixth loss in a row, on their way to a 49 loss season for which Mike Brown took all the heat.
Coincidentally, in that game Anthony Bennett looked like a moderately capable player. He was on the court 22 minutes and had 14 points and 8 rebounds. But like all mirages that are quick to disappear when you blink your eyes, Bennett returned to his old form.
|Anthony Bennett’s Rookie Year||Games Played||Points||FG%||Rebounds||PER|
In no one’s world did Anthony Bennett have #1 draft pick talent. That would mean he was the most gifted player in the first round, and even in a weak draft like 2013, he wasn’t skilled on either side of the ball. He was too slow to be a power forward and too big and too plodding to be a small forward. His work ethic and motor had been questioned since Las Vegas. He struggled with his weight and battled asthma and sleep apnea, not to mention discipline. Complicating all of it was mental talent in short supply. It’s hard to be a #1 pick if you don’t have the psyche to push through the massive expectations when bad games happen and social media is in a collective wtf?
|2013 Draft Class||Minutes Played (Career)||Points(Career)||FG% (Career)||Offensive Rating (Career)|
|1. Anthony Bennett||1,678||564||38.7%||92|
|2. Victor Oladipo||7,710||3,679||43.1%||100|
|3. Otto Porter||4,271||1,512||46.7%||109|
|4. Cody Zeller||4,833||1,680||47.9%||110|
The Cavs selected Anthony Bennett and passed on Victor Oladipo who was selected second in the draft of 2013. Oladipo in the backcourt with Irving would have been a lethal offensive combo. Cody Zeller, the #4 pick, has current numbers (11.4 points, 4,3 rebounds) that surpass Anthony Bennett’s counting stats over his sad career. Otto Porter, the #3 pick, averages 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds and is about to get paid this off-season.
Speaking of getting paid, Oladipo and Zeller were offered contract extensions while Anthony Bennett is averaging 5.3 points and 1 rebound with the Brooklyn Nets, his fourth NBA team (Cleveland, Minnesota, Toronto, Brooklyn).
It didn’t take long for Cleveland to give up on Bennett. He was part of the trade for Kevin Love. But he was useless and the Timberwolves waived Bennett. The Raptors picked the local Canadian up off the scrap heap, hoping that they could resurrect something which turned into one of those fairy tales with an ending no one remembers. Waiving Bennett was what you do to that loose change in your pocket you give to the homeless. You don’t really miss it.
|#1 and Not Trending Up Anthony Bennett||Games Played||Points||Fg%||Rebounds|
|2013-14, Cleveland Cavaliers||52||4.2||35.6%||3.0|
|2014-15, Minnesota Timberwolves||57||5.2||42.1%||3.8|
|2015-16, Toronto Raptors||19||1.5||29.6%||1.2|
It’s hard to blame Anthony Bennett for what happened to him in his NBA career. He was put in a situation he could not possibly thrive in. There was only one way for him to fall: hard. The fault was less his than the teams scouting him in the 2013 draft, particularly the Cavaliers.
The Cavs would have been better off trading the #1 pick for a couple of veteran players and a pick lower in the round where they could have had the Greek Freak (Giannis Antetokounmpo). But, the Cavs spin their failure. They say that Bennett allowed them to be horrible again and that allowed them to draft Andrew Wiggins which gave them a trade piece for Kevin Love who has been above average and unhappy at times having to take a back seat.
But the Cavs are missing the point. The NBA draft is about amassing the best talent possible and then going from there. The Cavs went nowhere from there, from the disaster that was Anthony Bennett. It was sheer luck they were rescued from their impending drowning, not by their own intelligence and resiliency, but by the desire of LeBron James to bring a title to Cleveland which he did. Had the Cavs drafted young talent they could have developed, it would have been insurance for a couple of years from now when James prime is in the rear view mirror and they will have to get younger on the wing.
But they failed. And Anthony Bennett failed. And Greg Oden is off the hook. Greg Oden wasn’t a bad NBA player, just an injured one.
Anthony Bennett never should have been drafted in the first round. He has no injury excuses to blame, just mediocre talent and not being ready for the role he was thrust in, which was more the Cavs fault than his.