Anthony Bennett has a monster NBA ceiling. That was the case before the NBA draft, and it remains true today.
But he'll have some major hurdles to clear in order to maximize that potential, which is one of the reasons so many were surprised to see him go No. 1.
Bennett is a combo forward, and though being able to play two positions has its perks, not having one natural position can be a bit unsettling.
For Bennett to exceed expectations as a rookie, he'll need to identify his strengths in an NBA lineup and apply them when most appropriate.
In other words, Bennett will need to exploit his versatility as a combo forward and keep from getting exposed as a tweener.
Bennett shares physical attributes of both a 3 and a 4. He stands around 6'7'' with a slim waist and excellent mobility, measurements and qualities of a small forward. But with a 7'1'' wingspan, muscular upper body and powerful legs and arms, Bennett has the strength and mass of a power forward.
The key to exploiting his versatility is knowing when and how to tap into each strength. Against power forwards, Bennett must take advantage of his foot speed on the perimeter. Against small forwards or stretch-4s, he has to take advantage of his strength and length inside.
And when the opportunity presents itself, Bennett has to showcase that mesmerizing athleticism and get out in transition whenever possible.
Bennett's offensive game plan or scoring repertoire might need to change on a nightly basis depending on who he's matched up with.
Must Take Advantage of: Foot speed on the Perimeter
With Bennett expected to play mostly power forward as a rookie, he'll find himself at a size disadvantage a few times a week.
And that's where Bennett must play to his strengths.
Most power forwards won't have the lateral quickness to keep up with Bennett's foot speed on the perimeter. By playing face-up basketball, Bennett puts slower-footed big men in a state a vulnerability.
Bennett's deceptive quickness off the bounce makes it tough for opposing big men to stay in front of him. With a jab step or pump, Bennett is able to shake his man out of his boots and explode up at the hoop.
Must Take Advantage of: Strength, Length on the Interior
Bennett may not have the size of your traditional NBA power forward, but he certainly has the strength. With an imposing frame and massive wingspan, Bennett has the muscle and length to bully defenders down low and finish over the top.
Bennett is capable of activating beast mode, which allows him to pick up easy buckets inside. Small forwards and stretch-4s won't have an answer for the physical punch he packs.
Must Take Advantage of: Open-Floor Agility, Explosiveness
Anthony Bennett is an absolute missile in the open floor. He should be salivating at the thought of a long defensive rebound or quick outlet that sparks the fast break.
You won't find too many big men who can keep up with Bennett from baseline to baseline. And that's where he needs to take advantage of his open-foor explosiveness.
Bennett's explosive athleticism serves him best in the open floor, but scoring when the game is slowed down will be a challenge.
He'll have to learn and find his sweet spots on the floor where he's most comfortable operating from.
Bennett usually works best in the mid-range where he can face the basket. Developing a reliable jumper out of the triple threat will really give him a boost, as he can use it as a scoring weapon or to set up the pump and dribble-drive.
Extending his range will also increase his scoring opportunities as a stretch-4 or small forward. He knocked down 37 percent of his three-point attempts at UNLV, so he certainly has promise as a shooter.
Most big men won't be comfortable guarding Bennett 26 feet from the rim.
In terms of half-court scoring, it's all about maximizing scoring opportunities. Bennett isn't going to be featured in the offense, so he'll have to seek out and recognize where these opportunities exist.
He'll excel at capitalizing in the open floor or when there's room to explode toward the rim. But Bennett's tallest obstacle at the pro level will be putting up points within the flow of Cleveland's half-court offense.