Did Anyone Notice Anthony Bennett's Cleveland Cavaliers Rookie Debut?

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Did Anyone Notice Anthony Bennett's Cleveland Cavaliers Rookie Debut?
Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently the No. 1 overall pick already made his NBA debut. You sure wouldn't know it from the highlights or media coverage. 

There really isn't much hype surrounding Anthony Bennett. No big ads or spots on Jimmy Kimmel. He doesn't even have much of a reputation. 

Where'd he go to school again? (UNLV.)

Typically, the No. 1 pick in a draft is immediately showered with lights and associated with stardom. And that equates to expectations. 

Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose—the previous five first overall picks have all become faces of their respective franchises. I'm not sure how many people would even recognize Bennett's if it was staring them in the eyes.

It's a fairly unique situation caused by a draft that lacked standout talent. Normally the first pick is known weeks or months before it's made—not just by general managers but by fans. 

He also got a late start on the job after shoulder surgery kept him off the floor for summer league, a chance for most first-year players to help generate some buzz. Damian Lillard, the reigning Rookie of the Year, took home summer league MVP a few weeks after last year's draft, making him a must-watch newcomer from Day 1 of the regular season. 

David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

But Bennett's Cleveland Cavaliers weren't exactly on League Pass alert Tuesday night—unless you were interested in seeing what kind of hair Andrew Bynum was rocking. 

Bennett only got 15 minutes in his NBA debut. If you watched it, you might not have realized he was even out there that long. 

He finished 0-of-5 from the field, made two out of four free throws and pulled in five boards. Let's just say after Day 2 of the NBA, Bennett isn't in Rookie of the Year contention. 

 

The Transition

Though the sample size is obviously tiny, there is something to take away from his debut and eight preseason games. 

Bennett played power forward at UNLV, with the keyword being power. He was a physical scoring presence in the paint, where he could bully his defenders for easy baskets inside. 

He ultimately complemented his physical play with some touch from outside. But it might have to be the other way around in the pros. 

So far, we've seen the majority of Bennett's scoring opportunities come out on the perimeter.  

That's the result of being undersized at the 4 on the NBA interior. He's got a better chance of getting an open look further away from the rim, where he can tap into his foot speed and promising jumper. 

Against the Brooklyn Nets in the opener, Bennett took five shots, four of which came on the perimeter.

In the preseason, Bennett took 43 shots outside the paint to just 24 shots in it. And unsurprisingly, he only shot 35.8 percent from the floor.

Here's his shot chart from eight preseason games:

If you ask me, Bennett is going to end up evolving into a small forward at the NBA level. It's a transition that can be made—just not overnight. 

Regardless, moving from college to the pros is going to take an adjustment for Bennett. And the cameras aren't likely to feature him in the process. 

The lack of hype might actually be good for him from a developmental standpoint. It could allow him to spend the next year under the radar adapting to a new game and adjusting his own. And that should reflect on his expectations, which need to be unusually lower than those handed to previous first overall picks. 

With a crowded frontcourt and the Cavs in a playoff hunt, Bennett isn't likely to make much noise as a rookie. Adjust your bar if you haven't set one already. 

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