A bust can only be measured relative to his draft spot and expectations. It wasn't Anthony Bennett's fault the Cleveland Cavaliers took him No. 1. They shocked everyone in the building, including Bennett, as well as the NBA fans and writers.
Bennett was a surprise pick for a reason. He's no sure thing, a label typically given to every top overall pick.
Outside of some questions regarding his game, Bennett has been forced to enter his first NBA offseason with restrictions. He underwent surgery prior to the combine, leaving him no choice but to sit out the summer league and any basketball-related activities.
Early reports out of Cavs camp have mentioned that Bennett looks out of shape. Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Sports Journal wrote he was "grabbing at his shorts and gasping after just a couple of trips down the floor."
It should also be noted that Bennett's weight is now up to 255 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than his playing weight at UNLV.
These are short-term concerns. Compound them with Cleveland's deep frontcourt, and chances are that Bennett has a quiet rookie season.
However, I'm just as concerned with Bennett's long-term outlook due to questions surrounding his game.
A bust? Probably not. But I wouldn't bet on Bennett reaching the bar set by previous No. 1 picks.
While Bennett has big-time offensive upside, his defensive ceiling is limited. And that's actually sugarcoating it.
Bennett doesn't project as a strong defensive player at all. While he struggled at times in college, the defensive transition to the pros could be like walking into a tornado.
Measuring around 6'7'', he's going to be at a size disadvantage almost every trip down the floor. The Cavs plan on suiting up Bennett at the 4, a position that plays to his sweet spots on the floor offensively.
But defensively, Bennett could be a glowing target for opposing teams to attack.
For starters, he's not very fundamentally sound and lacks the aggression he demonstrates on offense.
Here's an example of Bennett's lack of defensive IQ, along with his adverse physical tools for defending power forwards.
Knowing it has the size mismatch, North Carolina looks to post up Bennett in isolation. Without recognizing what type of help he has behind him, Bennett inexplicably tries to front the post. This makes life easy for the point guard, who's able to loft a simple entry pass over the top to his big man.
After making the seamless catch, all Desmond Hubert has to do is turn and finish an uncontested layup.
Defending the perimeter, which he'd do if he were assigned to opposing small forwards, Bennett lacks the lateral quickness to keep from getting burned off the bounce.
The extra weight he put on this summer won't help in this department, either.
Look where Bennett has to defend when covering a quicker, more elusive scorer away from the rim. With the fear of getting beaten to the rack, Bennett is forced to play two steps off his man, ultimately giving up the easy mid-range jumper.
Bennett projects as a one-way player. And that's okay—but only if you're really, really good on that one side of the ball. In Bennett's case, that side is offense.
Bennett also comes with a few offensive question marks.
When the Cavs took him No. 1, they clearly chose to ignore the uncertainty surrounding his position. Bennett has the size of a 3 with the game of a 4.
Against bigger forwards, Bennett could struggle getting those easy buckets or clean looks he got at UNLV. For the most part, size wasn't an issue for him in college. But simply rising up for a jumper or finishing in the lane won't come without a strong contest at the next level, considering the inches he'll be giving to opposing 4's.
Bennett also isn't much of a back-to-the-basket post player. He relies heavily on open-floor buckets and beating slower forwards off the dribble.
The question to ask is, how is Bennett going to get his points when the game is slowed down? He's a missile in transition and electric when attacking the rim. But working in traffic or on the perimeter is not where he excels.
Many have pointed out that Bennett can stretch the floor as a shooter. However, there's a difference between a player who's capable of making threes versus a three-point shooter. And Bennett projects as the former.
He can hit the open spot-up three from 21 feet away, though I wouldn't quite say he has NBA three-point range. And if he's forced to use a dribble before a jumper, chances are it's not going to fall.
I'd stack the odds against Bennett meeting first-overall expectations. There's uncertainty surrounding his offensive transition and ominous clouds hovering over his defensive prospects.
I wouldn't peg Bennett as the next big draft bust, but I wouldn't bet on him emerging as the top player from his class.
Relative to where he was selected, I'm predicting Bennett ends up disappointing more people than he pleases.
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