****originally posted by Steve Orbanek at Cleveland Sports Insiders on January 5, 2014****
Where do we go with Anthony Bennett at this point?
His performance so far has been historic — historically bad.
A recent piece circulating the web helps outline just how bad it’s been.
Trust me, there’s no sugarcoating this — it’s been awful.
In 31 games this season, Bennett is averaging 10.4 minutes, 2.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. Even worse is his PER of 1.1, which is the lowest ever recorded by the No. 1 overall pick in his rookie season. To make matters even more embarrassing, Kwame Brown is the next on the list, but it’s a sizeable gap; Brown’s PER as a rookie was 11.2.
Given his struggles, many have been clamoring for Bennett to join the Canton Charge for a stint in the NBA D-League. It would be embarrassing as Bennett would become the highest drafted player to ever play in the D-League. (Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, currently holds that honor.)
Yet, could there be some positives to a Bennett D-League stint? Might he start to finally regain some of the confidence that has eluded him thus far as a rookie?
I’m still not ready to go that far. Here are three more numbers to look at: 20.3, 17.4, 17.4. These numbers are the minutes per game respectively for C.J. Miles, Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee.Now, instead of sending Bennett to the D-League, might it be a bit more effective to give some of the three aforementioned players’ minutes to Bennett? Let’s face it, Miles and Clark are essentially nothing more than NBA journeymen, and there’s no reason that they should be playing this much on a 13-24 team.
Similarly, Gee’s greatest asset is his defense, and judging by recent performances, that’s not doing much to help the Cavaliers.
One might think it would be crazy to request more time for Bennett, especially when you consider how poorly he has played, but the bottom line is that things really cannot get any worse for the Cavaliers at this point. Even with the acquisition of Luol Deng, the Cavaliers likely will not make the postseason.
However, increased minutes for Bennett will at least allow the team an opportunity to see what they have in the Toronto native. Remember Cavaliers Chris Grant insists that the team made this pick for a reason.
Also, while it seems hard to believe now, it was not long ago that Bennett was a very effective collegiate scorer. While at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he averaged 16.1 point per game and shot .533 from the field. He was also solid from behind the 3-point line as he converted 37.5 percent of his attempts.
So, the talent is there. The Mountain West Conference is not the ACC, but every scout had Bennett labeled as a can’t-miss, sure-fire superstar following high school. Scout.com and Rivals gave him five stars while ESPN graded him out as a 97.
So, then, what exactly is the problem?
Is it the shoulder surgery he had prior to the season, which resulted in him coming into camp 20 pounds over weight?
What about the sleep apnea?
Could it be his asthma?
Or could it be Cavaliers coach Mike Brown?
Sure, that may sound like another excuse to throw Brown under the bus, but it is something to consider.
For his entire career up until this point, Bennett has dominated his opponents. His game was built off of confidence, and that was clear in his play.
Yet, here he is now, and it’s almost as if he’s lost any desire to play the game that he loves. Just watch his recent attempt (that’s a generous wording) to throw a screen: http://twitpic.com/drmvsy
There’s no fire.
A lot of blame can be pointed at Bennett and his lack of effort, and he does deserve that criticism.
But criticism needs to be directed toward Brown as well.
As a native Canadian, Bennett has never been under the public microscope like other American players. Also, he played his collegiate ball at UNLV, which we all know is not exactly Duke or the University of North Carolina when it comes to media coverage.
The truth is that Bennett has never ever dealt with anything close to the media coverage that he now faces… and to make matters worse, all of the coverage has been negative.
From the moment he was selected No. 1 overall, the pundits blasted the Cavaliers for what they considered a reach. Since then, they have continued to remind everyone of that as Bennett’s struggles have reached an unprecedented level.
Given the situation and his relative inexperience with the media, how do you expect a 20-year-old to react? Nobody seems to have any faith in him, including his head coach, who chooses to play him a mere 10.4 minutes a game.
Why should anyone then expect Bennett to have faith in himself?
His recent play, even in mop-up time reflects that.
No one should expect Bennett to be succeeding, and his struggles should come as no surprise. The truth is that he’s been set up to fail from the start, and his coach has done nothing to alleviate that situation.
Nonetheless, the naked eye can still see that there is talent within Bennett. Had Brown been smart, he would have immediately designed plays to cater to Bennett’s strengths. This would have allowed Bennett to gain some confidence from the start, and his performance might also not be so maligned.
That’s what former Cavaliers coach Byron Scott would have done.
Instead, Brown is insistent that defense should be the focus, even if it comes at the expense of Bennett’s development. He’s buried him on the bench and basically sent a message that his role on the team is meaningless.
Yet, it’s now January 15, and the Cavaliers rank 19th in opponents’ points per game (101.2), so how exactly is that defense thing working out for you Brown?
The bottom line is that we’re at the point where things cannot get much worse. Giving Bennett important minutes is not going to make things any better or worse.
But it could help things get better in the future, which is all the Cavaliers are playing for at this point.