Biggest Things Anthony Bennett Must Improve to Prove Doubters Wrong

Brendan Bowers@@BowersCLEContributor IIOctober 22, 2013

Biggest Things Anthony Bennett Must Improve to Prove Doubters Wrong

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    David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    The biggest things that Anthony Bennett must improve to prove his doubters wrong this season relate to his in-game conditioning. As his stamina and playing shape improves after recovering from shoulder surgery, he must also begin to develop consistency as a scoring threat and rebounder.

    What's encouraging for Cavaliers fans, however, is that Bennett has demonstrated an ability to excel in multiple areas of concern throughout the preseason. Despite struggling with his conditioning at times, for example, he did close out the fourth quarter against the Orlando Magic in dominant fashion during a recent preseason game.

    While his field-goal percentage and rebounding totals have also fluctuated throughout training camp, he has come off the bench to provide solid contributions on multiple occasions. 

    He will need to provide those types of performances consistently when the regular season begins, though, to prove his worth as the No. 1 overall pick and silence his critics for good. 

5) Play Himself into Game Shape

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    David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    Anthony Bennett underwent rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder in early May. According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, he did not resume basketball activity since then until September 19. 

    Bennett would have himself ready to participate during the first day of training camp, however, and has played at least 20 minutes in all six of the preseason games for the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    When considering the 20-year-old from UNLV is also battling asthma and using a mask at night to combat sleep apnea, according to the Associated Press, it's actually impressive how far along he is with respect to his conditioning at this point.

    Despite that, though, Bennett's doubters will use the fact that he also hasn't played more than 26 minutes during any one game to criticize his overall value and potential. Fair or not, until he is able to play 30 minutes per night on a consistent basis, he will continue to provide ammunition for his critics. 

    Regardless of the obstacles that Bennett's overcome in such a short amount of time already in Cleveland. 

4) Become a Consistent Force on the Glass

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    Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

    During the Cleveland Cavaliers six preseason games, Anthony Bennett has played between 20 and 26 minutes in each contest. 

    Despite that overall consistency in minutes, however, the total rebounds that Bennett has collected range from four to 10. He grabbed four rebounds against the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons while collecting 10 against the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers

    For Bennett to maximize his impact in 2013-14, he will need to use the minutes he earns to become more of a consistent threat on the glass. While he may not be asked to average as many as 10, he will need to work his way to a nightly total that approaches seven.

    In doing so, Bennett could come off the bench to make an instant impact for the Cavaliers on the glass, specifically while the rest of his NBA game develops.

3) Shoot a Reliable Percentage from the Field

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    David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

    Anthony Bennett's field-goal percentage has been all over the board during the preseason. He has shot as poorly as 2-of-12 (16.7 percent) while also scoring 12 points on only 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) shooting from the field.

    He's also shot 27.3, 33.3, 42.9 and 54.5 percent in each of his four other preseason matchups thus far.

    During the regular season, coming off the bench to play minutes at the power forward position specifically, Bennett will need to be as close to 50 percent as possible to silence his critics. 

    During the two preseason games he did reach that plateau, against the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, Bennett combined to go 10-of-18 from the field for 28 points. Those numbers would certainly suggest he's capable of consistent scoring during the regular season. He'll just need to prove as much when the games tip off for real. 

2) Demonstrate an Ability to Take over Games During Regular Season

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    During the Cavaliers' preseason matchup with the Orlando Magic, Anthony Bennett finished with 16 points. 

    What the final box score doesn't highlight, however, is that 14 of those points came on 6-of-7 shooting in the fourth quarter specifically. 

    Bennett helped seal Cleveland's come-from-behind win by knocking down a variety of shots in dominant fashion. While making that run specifically in the final period, Bennett began to demonstrate the unique ability to take over an NBA game on a moment's notice. 

    To prove his critics wrong this year, the same statement Bennett made on October 11 in Orlando will need to be put on display during the regular season as well.

1) Earn Minutes at Both Forward Spots

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    The most exciting and explosive lineup the Cleveland Cavaliers can put on the floor right now includes both Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett, along with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao.

    For this group to ultimately work during the regular season, however, Bennett will need to demonstrate the ability to defend opposing small forwards while also stepping out and playing the 3 himself offensively.

    From an offensive standpoint, though, I'm not sure there's too much to worry about in regard to Bennett's ability to play a hybrid 3 alongside Irving and Waiters. He's knocked down seven three-pointers thus far and put the ball on the floor effectively enough to get the basket. He's also moved the ball well with the pass and has appeared comfortable in space on the perimeter. 

    What Bennett will need to prove to coach Mike Brown, however, is that he can guard 3s effectively enough to earn minutes at both forward spots. If he can accomplish as much, he will not only increase his minutes but also give himself a chance to play alongside the most talented lineup Cleveland can offer.