10 Bold Predictions for Anthony Bennett's Rookie Season
Anthony Bennett is entering his rookie season with less hype than any other No. 1 overall pick in recent memory.
But while people may be sleeping on the Cleveland Cavaliers forward to an extent, expect big things from Bennett just as soon as the season begins.
Possessing a unique combination of size and athleticism up front, Bennett could spend time at both forward positions for the Cavs. The spacing and talent around him in Cleveland should not only create open scoring opportunities, but also increase his chances of success on the boards.
The 10 bold predictions for Bennett highlight these possibilities.
They are not necessarily listed in order of difficulty, but they will ultimately combine to allow the Cavs rookie to stand out among his peers by season's end.
No. 10: Eventually Make Multiple Starts at Small Forward
There is currently a three-player battle at Cleveland Cavaliers training camp for the starting small forward spot. As Joe Gabriele of Cavs.com reports, however, that competition does not include rookie Anthony Bennett.
Asked by Gabriele if Earl Clark will be given every opportunity to earn the starting 3 spot, coach Mike Brown responded with the following.
Earl will be. Alonzo (Gee) will be. And CJ Miles will be. Nobody’s going to be favored, nobody’s going to be a front-runner or anything like that. Right now, I look at those three guys as competing for the small forward spot.
Despite Bennett being initially asked to focus on learning the power forward position exclusively, behind veterans Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, expect the rookie to eventually make multiple starts at small forward this season.
While it might not happen until after the All-Star break, plugging Bennett in as a hybrid small forward alongside Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and either Anderson Varejao or a healthy Andrew Bynum could eventually become the Cavs' most explosive lineup.
No. 9: Finish with 30 Double-Doubles
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Anthony Davis led all rookies with 20 double-doubles during the 2012-13 campaign. The year before, Ricky Rubio and Kenneth Faried tied with the league lead in double-doubles among first-year players by each posting 12.
Through a combined effort of crashing the glass consistently and manufacturing second-chance points on the interior, Anthony Bennett has an opportunity to surpass both numbers.
While he may have to work efficiently enough to post 10-point, 10-rebound double-doubles more often than not, Bennett does have the skill set and potential to record as many as 30 for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In doing so, Bennett would finish with one more double-double than the 29 that All-Star Kevin Love recorded as a rookie in 2008-09.
No. 8: Shoot at Least 50 Percent from Floor
There were only seven qualified rookies who shot as well as 50 percent from the floor in 2012-13, with three of those seven rookies being centers.
While we can expect Anthony Bennett to extend his range 17 feet away from the basket at times for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he also projects to finish his first season by shooting over 50 percent from the field.
As a freshman with UNLV, Bennett knocked down 53.3 percent of the 379 field goals he attempted.
Surrounded by multiple scoring threats this year in Cleveland, led by All-Star Kyrie Irving, Bennett will have enough opportunities to capitalize on open shots to stay above the 50 percent mark as a professional.
No. 7: Become First Forward Since Blake Griffin to Lead Rookies in Scoring
Before that, fellow point guard Kyrie Irving finished first among all rookies by averaging 18.5 for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While I don't expect Bennett to average quite as many points as the last two rookie leaders, he does have an opportunity to become the first forward since Blake Griffin to assume the honor. During the 2010-11 campaign, Griffin scored 22.5 points per game for the Los Angeles Clippers.
By scoring efficiently and capitalizing on space created by Irving, Dion Waiters and others around him, Bennett projects to edge out the second-leading rookie scorer by averaging approximately 16 points.
The second-leading scorer behind Lillard was Dion Waiters with 14.7 in 2012-13. The year before, Brandon Knight finished second to Irving among rookies with 12.8.
No. 6: Emerge as Second-Leading Scorer in Cleveland
Dion Waiters is the favorite to finish as the Cleveland Cavaliers' second-leading scorer in 2013-14.
By scoring 14.7 per night as a rookie, Waiters averaged more points than any other Cavalier not named Kyrie Irving. After slimming down this summer and adding a year of experience at the NBA level, Waiters projects to be more efficient than the 41.2 percent he previously shot from the floor.
But while Jarrett Jack, Anderson Varejao and a healthy Andrew Bynum could also contend for the second-leading-scorer spot in Cleveland, expect Bennett to edge out his teammates by a slight margin.
After the 23-25 points that Irving projects to average, the Cavs' supporting cast will be relatively balanced. With Bennett next in line at approximately 16 points per night, expect Waiters to finish third, in the 15-point range despite shooting a better overall percentage.
While Bynum could become the second-leading scorer after the All-Star break specifically, Bennett being healthy now as Bynum continues his rehab will give the young rookie the advantage.
No. 5: Lead All Rookies in Rebounding
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While capitalizing on his unique combination of size and athleticism, Anthony Bennett has a chance to similarly average around eight rebounds for the Cavaliers to lead all rookies this time around.
Beyond the individual effort he will put in on the boards, Bennett will also be supported by the attention opposing bigs will be forced to pay to teammates Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson.
While the opposition focuses on putting a body on the two veterans who combined to average 23.8 rebounds last year, Bennett will have a free run at the basket more often than people realize.
No. 4: Become a Regular Starter by the All-Star Break
Whether it's at the power forward position, small forward spot or a combination of both, expect Anthony Bennett to become an everyday starter in Cleveland by at least the All-Star break.
Injuries could play a role in Bennett assuming this responsibility even sooner, too.
With Andrew Bynum sidelined, the possibility of starting Tristan Thompson at the 5 in his absence has been discussed. This scenario could potentially move Bennett into the starting power forward spot while Anderson Varejao is brought off the bench to back up both positions up front.
Bennett could also project to solidify the starting 3-spot long-term, as it lacks a definitive leader right now among Earl Clark, Alonzo Gee and C.J. Miles.
But beyond the roster requirements and the injury situation, expect Bennett to emerge as simply too potent of a weapon alongside Kyrie Irving to not spend the majority of his minutes in the starting lineup as the year goes on.
No. 3: Finish with a PER of 22.50
Anthony Bennett will not play big minutes early on during his rookie season. While making a significant impact through efficient use of those minutes, though, his playing time does project to increase exponentially as we inch toward the All-Star break.
Highlighting this efficient production will be a Player Efficiency Rating that could finish as high as 22.50.
For perspective, Anthony Davis led all rookies in PER according to ESPN.com last season at 21.80. Blake Griffin, finishing second among all power forwards behind only Tim Duncan, posted a PER of 22.44.
Despite those numbers, it's possible that Bennett could do even better by exceeding the 21.51 rating that Kyrie Irving posted to lead his team last year by finishing roughly one point higher.
Bennett's turnovers will be minimal based on team requirements, and his shooting percentage expects to be high with the open looks Irving will create, leading to more valuable possessions than not on a nightly basis.
No. 2: Scoring Double-Digit Points in Multiple Playoff Games
His eventual run will most likely only include one playoff series, but Anthony Bennett will be able to accomplish at least one thing that each of Cleveland's last two No. 1 overall picks didn't.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did not advance to the postseason as rookies. Led by Irving this year, however, Bennett and the Cavaliers could finish as high as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
But more than simply arriving in the postseason, Bennett has a chance to score at least 10 points in multiple playoff games.
While potentially averaging what could be around 16 points during the regular season, those double-figure scoring nights on the playoff stage may even come as no surprise.
No. 1: Win NBA Rookie of the Year
To summarize the statistical predictions I've scattered throughout these slides, I am suggesting that Anthony Bennett will finish his rookie year in Cleveland by posting the following numbers:
16.5 points per game, 8.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 51.9 percent shooting from the floor.
I am also suggesting that these numbers—combined with a trip to the postseason—will be enough for Bennett to edge out Victor Oladipo, C.J. McCollum, Kelly Olynyk, Cody Zeller, Ben McLemore and anyone else for NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2014.
In doing so, Bennett will join LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as the only other player in team history to be recognized as the league's rookie of the year.