After an outstanding freshman year at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Anthony Bennett declared for the 2013 NBA draft. Most NBA scouts predicted this to happen even before stepping onto a college campus. The Canadian born five star recruit from Findlay Preparatory School put together a nice freshman resume including being a Naismith Player of the Year finalist, NCAA Freshman of the Year finalist, Mountain West Freshman of the Year, and All-Mountain West First Team. With his freshman year resume, posting 15.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg and shooting 38% from three, Bennett has become a top 10 draft prospect. Bennett as a power forward ranked in the top 4 in both transition and half-court scoring efficiency, ranking higher than other top prospects such as Cody Zeller and Kelly Olynyk. Bennett’s athleticism, shooting ability, and scoring at the rim makes him one of the most versatile scorers in the draft.
Often compared to a young Larry Johnson, General Managers have shown interest in Bennett’s potential. With a wingspan of 7’1, Bennett is projected to be an undersized power forward with the possibility of swinging to the 3. Bennett is an impressive finisher at the rim and looked ungaurdable at times during his freshman run. What is so intriguing about Bennett is that he can both overpower a smaller defender and out quick a bigger defender with his foot speed. Bennett showed a mixture of floaters, tip ins, reverse layups, and dunks, and he scored 70% of his points from the paint. Bennett has an innate ability to create space all over the floor, whether through creating space on the offensive glass, creating space for his teammates to grab rebounds, or spreading the floor with his outside jumper. Bennett also looks to get to the charity stripe, averaging 5 trips to the line per game while shooting 70%. Bennett has tremendous upside that keeps the scouts salivating and has weaknesses that can be corrected.
Critics of Bennett have mostly pointed to his defensive intensity, shot selection, and past injuries. Defensively Bennett may be too undersized to guard the power forward position and may be too slow defensively to guard the small forward position. Depending on the team and the opponent Bennett may have to be a hybrid game to game depending on the match up. Bennett can be a lazy defender at times, not bringing the correct intensity to the right moment and tends to stay out of his defensive stance with his hands ready. This seems like it is a personal drive issue and can be fixed within the right system and coach. Bennett is only twenty years old so he is still very young and needs to learn to bring the intensity at the right time in the game. Another tell tale sign of his laziness is by his shot selection. Many times during his freshman year Bennett was caught taking a contested shot early in the shot clock instead of putting the ball on the floor and taking his man to the basket utilizing his size and speed. Bennett reminds me a lot of a young Lebron James. In the past Lebron would settle for a jump shot instead of utilizing his gifts and attacking the basket, just as Bennett often does now. I am not too worried about Bennett at this stage in his life as he should learn how to harness his abilities and choose more wisely how to use them.
As Bennett grows as an NBA player he should learn how to utilize all of his abilities and get rid of the bad habits on defense. I can see Bennett become anywhere from an all-star caliber player to a role player like a Jason Maxiell depending on the team he gets drafted by and how they utilize him and help him progress. Bennett is an outstanding player, one of my favorite draft prospects this year. If he can learn to bring his intensity every game, every possession, Bennett could be a very dangerous player. Bennett is projected as the number 6 prospect and projected to go into the top 10. If Bennett falls to the New Orleans Pelicans at the number 6 spot, I think they should pull the trigger. With the New Orleans Pelicans starting small forward Al Farouq Aminu being an unrestricted free agent as of July 1, Bennett could be a nice replacement at the 3 and even help out at the 4 to allow Anthony Davis to play the center position some games. I think the combination of Anthony Davis and Anthony Bennett could be devastating for future opponents going forward.