When Anthony Bennett was selected first overall in the 2013 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, people were shocked. The one-and-done Canadian prospect was the number one rated power forward in his high school class and had spent an impressive season at UNLV, but most felt it was a gigantic reach. After what some called the worst rookie season by a number one overall pick in history, he was packaged in a deal with Andrew Wiggins and sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves where he enjoyed his best season to date.
Unfortunately, the Wolves were so deep with young talent that Bennett became expendable and was bought out at the end of the season. He was picked up on a one year deal by the Toronto Raptors, who have had a front seat to his development since he was a child, but could not play himself into meaningful minutes on the playoff team and spent most of the season in the D-League or riding the bench.
Now, Bennett finds himself with a roster spot on the Brooklyn Nets and is, arguably, in the best position of his career. With little expectations, opportunity for growth in the roster, and a system that plays to his strengths; Anthony Bennett has a chance to realize his potential in Brooklyn. His biggest issue is that he hasn’t had a coach utilize him properly in the NBA. Before taking a look at how to use him, it is important to understand what he brings to the table.
Bennett is a 6’8″, 245 pound forward that is big enough to play the four and could be quick enough to play the three. His 7’1″ wingspan and athleticism allow him to potentially guard four positions and his versatility on offense allow him to play three positions at almost any given time. He can shoot the ball, plays above the rim, runs the floor well, and is a proficient rebounder.
Ideally, Bennett would play the five in a small ball lineup and serve as a pseudo-Draymond Green. He has a long way to go before he can be put in the same sentence has someone that defends and shoots as well as Green, but the building blocks are there.
So far, Bennett has really only been used properly by the Canadian National Team. In that system, Bennett thrives and looks like the player he could potentially be in the NBA. His performance in the 2015 Pan-American Games stand out the most. In five games played, Bennett averaged 15.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists while shooting 56 percent from the floor in 26 minutes of action. During the tournament, Bennett thrived while playing most of his minutes and the four and five.
He is at his best when he is running in transition or when he has space to hit open jumpers. He has a smooth release and long arms that help him get his shot up over length, but in the NBA he has struggled with consistency and shot selection. Canada’s wide open system and multiple shooters allow Bennett to find open looks in the half court and jaw dropping dunks in transition.
If preseason was any indication of what first year head coach Kenny Atkinson’s system will look like, then Bennett could be in for a banner year. If Atkinson’s motion offense has guys like Brook Lopez attempting three-pointers, then someone who has actually shown potential in that role should feel right at home. While you can’t put too much stock into preseason success or failure, Bennett already looks more at home than he ever did in Cleveland, Minnesota, or Toronto.