With the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select….Anthony Bennett, Forward, UNLV.
Those were the words that rang out loud to open the 2013 NBA Draft this past off-season. Bennett is an extremely talented power forward, and is expected to be a huge piece of the future for the Cavaliers. He stands at 6’8″ and weighs in at 240 pounds. He’s not the most athletic big man in the NBA, but with his size and strength, he’ll be very hard to stop for opposing power forwards.
There have been some injury concerns about him since the Draft, but as of recently he has been cleared for full participation in training camp. If he’s able to work on his game and stay healthy, he’s going to have a role immediately this season. The Cavaliers have a glut of big men on their roster, so Bennett’s playing time might not be exactly what he’d like, but you can expect to see him on the floor for around 15-20 minutes per game.
Bennett has a very solid post game offensively, but does need to improve his mid-range shooting. The Cavaliers love to run the pick and roll offense with star point guard Kyrie Irving, and that will be one area that Bennett needs improvement as well. He’s fairly polished with his back to the bucket, and has great power moves at the rim as well.
Last season in his freshman year at UNLV, Bennett averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He’s a very aggressive player on the boards, and that will be something that the Cavaliers will need once they either trade or allow Anderson Varejao to walk in free agency. He may not have the height to be a defensive factor at the rim, but he did average 1.2 blockers per game last year as well.
Obviously the biggest area of improvement that he needs would be his defensive game. In the NBA, the most athletic guys come to play, and if you’re a big man, you have to be able to defend your rim. Bennett has the ability and work ethic to become a solid defender, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. There’s no doubt that Mike Browns and the Cleveland coaching staff will work hard alongside of Bennett to make his improvement move as quickly as possible.
Due to his ability to go strong to the bucket, Bennett will likely be on the free-throw line a good amount of time throughout his NBA career. He shot just 69% from the line last season at UNLV, and that will be another area that needs improvement as he enters the NBA. He’s been working hard on that aspect of his game already this off-season, according to multiple reports, so we should see an improvement in that percentage.
Overall, Bennett is a very talented player that has a future in the league. He likely won’t be a starter, at least early on this season with Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao, and Tristan Thompson being the top three projected big men on the Cavs’ roster. Bennett will see time off the bench on what should be a very consistent basis, so we will be able to watch as he progresses throughout the year. The Cavaliers have a great player who could turn into something very special in the future.