Anthony Bennett Can’t Say Goodbye

The career of Anthony Bennett is proof that NBA players have multiple lives. It takes years and years before the I can fix him fantasy runs into a brick wall. But if we are being fair in judging Bennett, the knock on him is more about Bennett being a disastrous number one pick than what he can actually do on a NBA court. Bennett should have been selected at the bottom of the first round. He has been wrongly blamed for the lack of insight of Cleveland Cavaliers scouts. They selected him. Nevertheless, the career of Anthony Bennett has been a study in mediocrity, apathy and underachievement.

Where do we start? The four teams in four years, perhaps? Drafted by the Cavs in 2013 in what was a very weak draft class save Giannis Antetokounmpo-no 2013 lottery picks have made the All-Star team- Bennett played in 52 games which at the time seemed so-so but now, considering the kind of career he has had, that rookie year feels special despite Bennett only playing 13 minutes per game.

Two things hampered his rookie season. His weight which was never basketball shape. And his diagnosed sleep apnea which he attributed to his sluggishness. Bennett never had a very strong motor, not even in college. Playing on a bad team that was very young with a coach- Mike Brown- that couldn’t get anyone to listen proved to be a disaster. Bennett didn’t play enough minutes where any kind of evaluations about his game could stick. On the court, he was almost sleep walking and admitted he was clueless. It took him nearly three months to score his first double-double.

The next team was the Timberwolves because no way was LeBron James going to be on the same team with Anthony Bennett. In Minnesota, he almost played 16 minutes a game which would be his career high. He played in 57 games which was also his career high as was the 20 points he scored against the Spurs. However, Bennett couldn’t remain consistent. Putting the ball in the hole was an issue.  He was miserable at it. He shot 20% 3-10 feet. He shot 22% from the midrange. He shot 33% on long twos. He didn’t rebound well either, not even four boards a game. He went to Toronto next where he played in 19 games.

In Toronto, he played in the D-league. Immaturity issues plagued Bennett and annoyed Toronto brass who wanted more, expected emotional growth after so much failure. Bennett was waived. Then there was Brooklyn and 23 games and he was waived again. Bennett went to Turkey. Then he signed with Phoenix.

Such has been the Anthony Bennett story.

When you mention Anthony Bennett’s name the words “bust”, “disaster”, “stealing money” always punctuate the dialogue. But. Take a breath. Is he really the worst number one draft pick of the past twenty years? Are his first four years worse than Michael Olowokandi and Andrea Bargnani’s first four years? (Greg Oden’s first four years were derailed by injury).

To answer the bust question, yes. Bennett is the worst number one pick of the past two decades. It’s not even close.

First Four Years Games Minutes Points Rebounds
Michael Olowokandi (1998 #1 Pick) 287 8,467 2,770 2,249
Andrea Bargnani (2002 Draft) 301 8,742 4,121 1,452
Anthony Bennett (2013 Draft) 151 1,905 658 472

It’s hard to see where Bennett fits into the NBA structure. He was never explosive, nor was he quick. In his brief NBA stay, he demonstrated an inability to score the ball. He wasn’t aggressive nor was he tough and he tended to have a lot of Dwight Howard in him, pouting and sulking. His emotional makeup seemed aligned with his weight issues; he was always running uphill like Sisyphus with the rock waiting to crush him.

But the NBA is the land of a thousand chances. No one really fails until after year five. This is year five for Bennett.

The Suns have given Bennett the benefit of the doubt. Yes, he’s 24 but he’s lived a lot of pro basketball in those 24 years, a lot of failure. Even Bennett concedes he has to prove something to himself.

“I don’t have to prove anything to anybody but myself just for the simple fact that I can stay in this league.” (Anthony Bennett)

Can he? Stay in the league? The Suns believe that on a young team Bennett will have chances. His fifth year may be his very last chance at NBA redemption. And his best chance to prove everyone wrong.


photo via llananba