The 2013 NBA draft will forever be remembered for its enigmatic, unpredictable nature, which started with the Cavaliers drafting the 6'7", 240 pound forward with the first overall pick. With the selection, Cleveland made Bennett the first Canadian to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
While the average basketball fan may not be familiar with Bennett, it didn't take long for the Findlay Prep product to draw the attention of the national media last season.
POLL RESULTS: 49.1% say they never heard of #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett pic.twitter.com/dg62PAnyPt
— darrenrovell (@darrenrovell) June 28, 2013
By December, ESPN college basketball writer Myron Medcalf tweeted that Bennett had National Player of the Year potential and CBS national columnist Gary Parrish jokingly tweeted that the UNLV forward should declare for the NBA draft in the middle of his eighth game at the collegiate level.
Forget freshman of the year. Anthony Bennett is national POY material. #BringOnTheHype
— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) December 23, 2012
UNLV's Anthony Bennett ought to just go ahead and enter the NBA Draft at halftime. Looks like a man playing with kids out here right now.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) December 10, 2012
Bennett was the seventh best prospect in the 2012 recruiting class, according to ESPN and Rivals. At Findlay Prep, Bennett averaged 16.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game on his way to becoming a McDonald's All-American.
He drew interest from universities around the country and ultimately chose UNLV instead of Oregon, Kentucky and Florida.
http://t.co/NKEzPwm7 2012 No. 7 Anthony Bennett (Findlay Prep) to UNLV means Rebels have two top 40 players (also No. 38 Katin Reinhardt).— Jeff Rabjohns (@JeffRabjohns) May 12, 2012
UNLV's 2012 freshman class that was headlined by Bennett was ranked seventh in the country by ESPN and the Running Rebels' new additions allowed them to crack the top 20 of last year's preseason AP poll.
The forward's season highs were 28 points against Cal State Bakersfield and 16 rebounds against Air Force. He racked up 12 double-doubles in 35 games last season.
After posting a 25-9 (10-6) regular season record, UNLV earned a No. 5 seed in last season's NCAA tournament. No. 12 seed California upset the Rebels 64-61 in the second round of the tournament. Bennett recorded a double-double but he made just four of his 11 shots.
Bennett suffered from left shoulder pain in February, according to the Las Vegas Sun, but he never missed a game. He had surgery on May 8 to repair a torn rotator cuff.
In an interview with ESPN's Chad Ford, Bennett's doctor David Altcheck said, "He can return to the court in four months. His prognosis is for 100 percent recovery."
UNLV's Anthony Bennett officially declares for the 2013 NBA Draft. Press release here: http://t.co/NuPDUAG3FY— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) April 2, 2013
Bennett's size along with his ability to rebound and shoot from the outside makes him versatile. Depending on the combination of players that Cleveland has on the court, he can play his natural position of power forward or potentially small forward.
Last December, Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg wrote about Bennett's unique skill set.
What's particularly impressive about Bennett is he pairs light feet and soft touch with a powerful frame. He showcased that repeatedly down the stretch against Cal, following a soaring baseline jam with a smooth 12-footer from the opposite side of the floor.
With power forward Tristan Thompson, Cleveland's first round pick in 2011, emerging as a key contributor to the Cavaliers, Bennett could back up Thompson or develop into a small forward in the NBA.
Many fans and analysts like to compare prospects to established NBA players to project their upside.
His jump shooting and rebounding abilities could make it hard for Cleveland head coach Mike Brown to take him off the court; Bennett's frame, which is undersized for a power forward in the NBA, and his struggles on defense could make it hard for him to succeed at the next level.
Anthony Bennett looks the part of a lottery pick and he showed his potential during his one-year stint at UNLV but only time will tell if the Canadian power forward will live up to the expectations of being the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft.