Anthony Bennett: Which Position Will No. 1 Pick Play in the NBA?

C.J. Moore@@CJMooreBRCollege Basketball National Lead WriterJune 27, 2013

Jun 27, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Anthony Bennett (UNLV) shakes hands with NBA commissioner David Stern after being selected as the number one overall pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The most unpredictable NBA draft ever had a classic tweener who is reportedly 18 pounds overweight and coming off shoulder surgery go No. 1. That sounds about right.

This is what we think we know. The Cleveland Cavaliers are banking on UNLV’s Anthony Bennett eventually becoming a small forward in the NBA after playing a stretch 4 in college. At least that seems to be the logic behind the pick.

The success rate for college stretch 4s converted to small forwards that are high picks and not named Kevin Durant hasn’t worked out beautifully in recent years.

You would think the numbers would translate.

In his one season at UNLV, Bennett was an efficient power forward with the ability to hit the three. But the other two players with similar college numbers, drafted in the top two with the idea that they could move to the perimeter, were Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams. Neither player has been a success story.

It’s a bit early to call Williams a bust, but the Cavs could not have picked Bennett with the anticipation that he would be Beasley or Williams.

The main difference between those two and Bennett is their games were more refined at this point, which the numbers from each player’s final year in school indicate.

  PPG RPG 2-point % 3-point % Off. Rating
Bennett (12-13) 16.1 8.1 58.7 37.5 114.0
Williams (10-11) 19.5 8.3 60.1 56.8 122.7
Beasley (07-08) 26.2 12.4 56.2 37.9 119.8


Bennett told The Washington Post this week:

Right now I’m thinking [I’ll be] stretch four but later on in my career maybe I will play the three. I feel that playing the stretch four is an advantage for me because I’m quicker than most power forwards. I can shoot the ball well. I’m efficient so I can use that to my advantage.

As a small forward, it’s hard to envision Bennett as being capable of guarding NBA perimeter players. He doesn’t have the quickness, and it’s debatable whether his range will stretch out to the NBA three-point line. Beasley and Williams have not been good NBA three-point shooters. 

Bennett’s college numbers would suggest he’s best close to the bucket. According to, he shot 40 percent of his shots at the rim and made 73 percent of those shots.

Bennett isn’t a great back-to-the-basket player, but he has nice pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop potential as a 4, which is ideal when playing with Kyrie Irving.

The head-scratcher is that fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson has looked like a solid starter at power forward, and that wasn’t a position of need. It’s always a bit perplexing to think that a team in position to draft No. 1 would draft for need, but the Cavs don’t seem to be as far off as most teams picking No. 1 usually are.

If the Cavs believe Bennett has the most potential in this draft, then good for them going with the best player on their board.

But if they’re banking on Bennett moving over to small forward, that could be an issue. Just ask Minnesota and Miami how it worked out with Williams and Beasley.