Anthony Bennett exploded on to the national radar as a freshman at UNLV, and is now considered one of the top prospects in the country.
Bennett was highly touted out of high school, but questions remained over his natural position and ability to transition from one level to the next. While that's still the case, the upside he flashed won't keep that question mark from mattering.
If Bennett finds a niche as a combo forward, we could be talking about one of the tougher offensive mismatches.
He averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game on nearly 53.5 percent shooting and 37.5 percent from three.
Bennett is a compact, 6'7'' forward with exceptional upper body strength and a frame built for contact. He's what I like to call a power athlete because of his vicious explosiveness attacking the rim.
But along with his power comes speed and agility. Bennett can fly down the court and face the rim from the perimeter.
This play sums up just exactly how physically gifted Bennett really is. On this play, Bennett demonstrates mobility, speed, agility and explosiveness—driven by 240 pounds of muscle.
Bennett has the strength of a 4 and the mobility of a 3, which allows him to play off anyone in the frontcourt and provide lineup flexibility.
As a 4, Bennett illustrates a high activity level at and above the rim. He's a physical presence on the glass and blocks over a shot per game.
Bennett has a soft touch inside, and can score over the shoulder with his back to the basket. Though he's undersized for a natural power forward, his strength and aggression should allow him to body up down low, given the matchup isn't blatantly overwhelming at the next level.
Bennett is also capable of playing face-up basketball, which is what makes him such a dangerous offensive player. His foot speed gives him an advantage against power forwards who aren't laterally quick enough to keep up on the perimeter.
Check out this crossover Bennett lays on James McAdoo, one of the quicker power forwards in the country:
Bennett's sweet spot is out of the triple-threat position in the mid-range with space around him to operate. Because he's so quick and balanced off the bounce, defenders have to play back a bit and respect the dribble-drive.
Here, Bennett squares to the rim to rise and fire from 16 feet away:
Bennett also has three-point range on his jumper, and is making 37.7 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. Having the ability to play off the ball and spot up on the perimeter will maximize his court-purpose and increase his scoring opportunities.
Larry Johnson Comparison
Bennett and Larry Johnson have a lot more in common than just UNLV. These guys are built the exact same way with similar offensive skill sets.
This is the type of player Bennett projects to be if he reaches his ceiling—a physical enforcer who can play inside and out with power or finesse.
Bennett is one of the few prospects in the country who can offer star power at the next level. He's got a top-five ceiling with All-Star potential, and has appeal as a face to help market a franchise.
The way Blake Griffin and "the big play" helped bring excitement to the Clippers (before they got Chris Paul), Bennett has the chance to do the same for someone else.
It's plays like this that help build fanbases:
There's always risk with combo players. While the glass-half full says he's versatile, the glass-half empty shows he's undersized for a power forward and lacks the skill set of a small forward.
Bennett is going to have to improve his perimeter game, particularly as a shot-creator. He's not always going to be big enough to play the 4. Being able to generate his own offense 20 feet from the rim will maximize his effectiveness and offensive versatility.
Draft Projection and NBA Outlook
Though Bennett will be sidelined during the pre-draft process after undergoing surgery on his shoulder, his draft stock remains intact.
It's possible he goes as high as No. 3 to Washington or as low as No. 8 to Detroit, but it would be hard to imagine him falling out of that range.
There is some risk here. We've seen a number of combo forwards fail to make the transition, getting stuck between the 3 and 4 positions. Bennett will need to exploit the advantage his open-floor agility and interior power present.
Consider Bennett one of the higher-risk, higher-reward options in the draft.