Call it what you like—too early, an adjustment phase, a tiny sample size—regardless, this wasn't the start Anthony Bennett or fans were hoping for.
Bennett is now 0-of-15 from the floor through four games of the regular season. Granted, he's averaging just 12.5 minutes. But 0-of-15 is a rough number whether it's through four quarters, games or weeks.
I hate to bring it up, because it's a frightening thought, but it looks like Bennett will have to fight hard to keep from falling between positions. He's showing classic signs of a tweener early on. It's the fear I've had with him since day one at UNLV—Bennett is a power forward at heart with a small forward's height.
He's only around 6'7'' (his last official pre-draft measurement), which worked for him in college, but the NBA interior typically requires a little more size. So far this year, Bennett has missed all five of his attempts at the rim.
Take a look at Bennett's shot chart through four games, which gives you a good idea of how the gravitational pull between positions is affecting him. The same Bennett who had scouts buzzing over his open-floor explosiveness, above-the-rim athleticism and NBA-level strength has morphed into a perimeter player to start his career:
|First Four Games||Minutes||Two-Pointers Attempted||Three-Pointers Attempted|
He's taken more three-pointers than two-pointers in three of his first four games. And that's a direct result of being unable to recognize better scoring opportunities.
No longer a focal point of the offense, Bennett is now looking to score opportunistically. And it's led to a lot of catch-and-shoot three-pointers, simply because he's unsure how to identify or attack other routes for points.
The fact is, until he gets his bearings and discovers new offensive avenues, Bennett will feel more comfortable taking a shot from 25 feet away, where his look will be clean, as opposed to within 15 feet of the hoop, where his look will be contested or off-balance.
He has a ton of confidence in his jump shot. Maybe even too much, to the point where he's relying on it for most of his offense. Still, Bennett is a promising shooter. The three-ball should end up being a serviceable weapon for him once he settles into the league.
But when it's not falling, Bennett has to find other ways to get on the scoreboard.
This isn't the case of a center whose focus is defense or a point guard whose primary responsibility is distributing. The Cavs took Bennett to score points and give them a mismatch up front. Bennett needs to figure out how to maximize his strengths and use his tools—quickness, explosiveness, shot-making—to his advantage.
Bennett is pressing. He probably hasn't gone a game in his life without scoring a basket, never mind four in a row with the whole world watching.
It's become a thing; the No. 1 pick in the draft still hasn't made a shot, and people are taking notice.
Bennett needs an easy bucket like a nervous comedian needs a good joke to break the ice. And the Cavs have to help him out. Coach Mike Brown should look to get him involved—run a few plays his way, push the tempo or set him up with a pick-and-roll opportunity:
But regardless of whether a play is run for him, Bennett just needs to stay active. High activity usually results in a few free points here and there, whether it's getting out in transition, cutting backdoor, slipping off a screen or crashing the offensive glass.
Simply spotting up and rotating around the perimeter is going to result in a low-percentage offensive attack. And you won't find too many valued power forwards who don't shoot at least 47 percent from the floor.
Easy buckets are also the No. 1 cure for dwindling confidence, something Bennett is clearly suffering from early on. This tweet followed his fourth straight game without a bucket:
When Bennett is playing with confidence, it's awfully easy to pick up on. We saw him go off for 14 points in the fourth quarter of a preseason game just a few weeks ago.
His confidence started to snowball with every shot he made. Before you knew it, Bennett was knocking down step-back jumpers and fadeaways in the post like a seasoned veteran.
When Bennett is locked in, there's no hesitation. But he'll have to find some easier scoring opportunities to prevent inconsistency and inefficiency.
We haven't seen too many combo forwards meet their NBA expectations as of late—especially those who've been taken atop the drafts. Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley and Thomas Robinson have all struggled early with the transition.
It's not going to happen overnight for Bennett. He needs seasons' worth of reps to familiarize himself with the size, speed and spacing of the pro game.
However, I wouldn't write him off just yet—well, maybe for Rookie of the Year honors, but not as an NBA player.
But this should certainly be an uphill climb for Bennett, whose opportunity to earn minutes will be limited given the crowded frontcourt and Cleveland's win-now mentality. Hopefully, an easy bucket or two will help revive his confidence and get him back on track towards becoming an impact offensive player.