Anthony Bennett: A second chance

In 2013, a young sharp shooting power forward named Anthony Bennett from The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) was drafted first by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After playing in 35 games for UNLV, he averaged 16.1 points per game on 53.3% shooting and 37.5% from deep. While he did suffer from a nagging shoulder injury during his lone collegiate year, there was solid belief among NBA scouts that he could be a very strong player in the professional league.

His length at 6’8”, youth (20 years old), and ability to shoot led some publications to believe that he had the “highest ceiling in [that] year’s draft” (SBNATION). Even prior to college, the Toronto native was ranked the #1 forward in the 2012 high school class and was, by multiple accounts, a solid prospect with very high potential.

And while this was not a legendary draft class, there were other significant players taken after Bennett such as Victor Oladipo (2), Steven Adams (12), Kelly Olynyk (13), Giannis Antetokounmpo (15), Dennis Shroder (17), and Rudy Gobert (27).

This all begs the question: what went wrong?

From the onset of his first professional game against Brooklyn, Bennett struggled. He missed his first 15 field goal attempts spanning across his first four games. During his first complete year, he played in 52 games. He shot 35.6% from the field and 24.5% from the three-point line. To make matters worse, he shot 64% from the stripe. He was, without any drama or fanfare, abysmal.

Even more telling is that, as you see in this video above, two of the first four field goals taken were nearly wide open. This was the start to a long and rough initial start to his professional career. While he improved slightly at Minnesota the next year, he proceeded to get moved to Toronto where he was unable to make the floor for 20 games. After one last year with Brooklyn in 2016-2017, Bennett was waived by the Nets.

He moved on to the Euroleague, where he played just 10 games and averaged a measly 1.2 points per. Then, after bouncing around multiple G-league assignments, he joined the Agua Caliente Clippers (ACC) in October 2018.

At that point, things started to look up for the former phenom. In this past year, Bennett played in 25 games in the G-league. He averaged just 20.9 minutes per game but scored 12.2 points per game on 53.7% shooting. Even more remarkable? His three-point shooting. He shot a scorching 44.9% from deep on nearly 5 attempts per game.

He was moving quicker on the floor, utilizing the spacing of the opposing defensive and was absolutely deadly given any bit of space.

Bennett’s finesse has even improved, as he is able to dance around defenders with remarkable balance in order to hit quick fire shots from deep.

In the 25 games played with the ACC, he had a 72.1% true shooting percentage with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 21.8. He was so remarkable on the floor this year that he had a net rating of 22.0 (!). Bennett really dominated the league with his sharp touch.

Statistics %/# Rank in G-League 2018-2019
Two Point FG 70.6% First
Three Point FG 45.3% Ninth
True Shooting 72.1% Second
Offensive Rating 132.0 Second
Win Shares Per 48 0.214 Tenth

Fast forward to this upcoming season where the Rockets have signed the former number one overall pick for a minimum deal.

Now while there is still a long way to go before Bennett can be considered a reasonable contributor to a professional team, it is not hard to suggest that he could light up the floor during blow-outs in this upcoming year given his performance last year. If he shows enough, there might even be an argument to be made that Bennett could play the role of a stretch five on the floor when Mike D’Antoni wants to run small ball line-ups and rest PJ Tucker.

All in all, the Rockets have a very solid recent track record when it comes to working in G-league prospects to become contributors to their roster (see: Danuel House), and it’s not too crazy to suggest that Bennett could provide a helping role as well in this upcoming season.

Bennett has a second chance to play in the NBA after working so hard to get back on the court. He spent last year lighting up the developmental league and has taken strides to improve every facet of his offensive game. Here’s hoping he takes advantage of the opportunity presented.

About the author: David Z. Allen is a fourth year medical student at The Ohio State College of Medicine. Born in Houston, Texas, his favorite NBA players are Hakeem, Francis, Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier, James Harden, and Lebron James.

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