Other than what I have read and different videos (yes I still see value in YouTube videos even though they don’t show the whole picture) I have seen, last night’s UNLV tournament game marked the first time I was able to see Anthony Bennett in a full game. Everyone should keep in mind that this kid just turned 20 this month and is a Freshman looking to be a top 5-8 draft pick, if not higher in 2013.
The game itself was difficult to watch from a fan’s perspective. I often found myself yelling at the screen to get Bennett the ball while he constantly fought for position and UNLV’s guards chucked up shot after shot on the way to a glorious 32% shooting as a team, or cringing as they blew the game by missing key free throws down the stretch. Apparently the UNLV coach doesn’t understand the concept of beating a zone by high posting your big man who can handle the ball and pass. Anyways, on to Bennett who will now be referred to as AB for the majority of this post :).
Cal did a very nice job defensively on Bennett even though the majority of the time they would have been called for a defensive technical in the NBA, but that is the nature of college basketball. AB did a nice job moving around the floor on the offensive end, shifting from low post position, to the high post, to the 3 point line setting numerous screens for teammates while rarely touching the ball for the first 10 minutes of the game. One thing I did like is that despite his lack of touches, AB didn’t force the action on offense and showed decent effort on the defensive end.
It is tough to picture Bennett playing the SF position in the NBA simply because of how he is forced to play in college. With that said, he has great ball handling for a 4 and probably just good ball handling for a 3. He demonstrated this by taking the ball the length of the floor with very good pace, hesitation and one handed “crossover” to avoid defenders. Sadly he already has a better handle than Alonzo Gee, but that isn’t saying much.
AB did get out of position a bit on the defensive side of the ball, but I didn’t see anything that would say to me he can’t tighten that up at the next level. He guards the 4 and 5 spots and does a pretty decent job of it. For a guy that has the leaping ability he does, you would think he would be more of a shot blocker, but he really isn’t. Again showing his youth, he is a little slow getting back on defense in transition. This could be due to some frustration of not getting the ball on offense, but I am speculating. There is basis for this if you think of how the Pistons and Cavs to a degree would try and get Ben Wallace engaged on defense by getting him easy buckets on offense. There is no such thing as an easy bucket for AB.
Bottom Line: AB is an explosive leaper and dunker, but is only 6’7″ and at 250 pounds will have a tough time translating to anything but PF in the NBA. That may be his best position though, because his shooting form and range is very good which makes him a great stretch 4 option. His wingspan is 7’1″ which makes his height less of an issue, but he has to learn to use his weight to his full advantage. From a Cavs standpoint, he really resembles Maurice Speights to me in that he likes the face up and mid range games as well as the low post game. The biggest difference between the two is that Speights isn’t nearly the leaper/dunker that Anthony Bennett is. With that in mind, if the Cavs do not re-sign Speights, they would have a place for AB, but he did not impress in his tournament game. Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter or maybe even Shabazz Muhammad (will get to him later) could be better options depending on where we pick in this draft.