Anthony Bennett's Early Struggles Shouldn't Be Cause for Concern

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Anthony Bennett's Early Struggles Shouldn't Be Cause for Concern
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It's safe to say that Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft, isn't having the best start with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And that might be an understatement.

Four games into the regular season, Bennett has yet to make a field goal. While you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks the rookie's performance has been good, the reality is that it isn't nearly as bad as it sounds.

First off, you have to identify the reason Bennett isn't playing well. While the past has shown us some draft busts taken at the No. 1 slot, the players chosen first overall generally tend to be solid. The point being that the kid knows how to play basketball. What might be a contributing factor here is his health.

Bennett had surgery in May, and as a result he wasn't in the best shape coming into training camp. The expected sluggishness associated with such a return has been intensified by the rookie's sleep apnea and asthma.

Asthma can definitely slow down his return to form. He's already shown flashes of the player he could be in the preseason, but the increase in intensity has gotten the better of him thus far. As he works himself into better shape, he should be able to get himself into a groove more easily.

While the "bust" label might be getting its run around the water cooler, it's difficult to compare Bennett with the other top picks in the 2013 draft. Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 overall pick, has logged more than double the number of minutes as Bennett. The power forward isn't being given the playing time typical of his draft selection, and this is part of the reason he hasn't had such immediate success.

Of the last four No. 1 picks, Bennett is currently averaging less than half of the minutes per game as Kyrie Irving did in his rookie season. He's also averaging less than a third of the rookie-season minutes of former No. 1 picks John Wall and Blake Griffin. His physical condition could be the reason for his limited minutes, but it also could be a result of Cleveland's deep frontcourt and a lack of serious need at the 4.

On the bright side, however, is that despite his lack of scoring, Bennett has found other ways to contribute during his time on the floor. His rebounding has been solid thus far; Bennett is sixth among rookies in total rebounds and tied for third in total steals, despite significantly lower minutes per game.

As one might expect from a player under Cleveland head coach Mike Brown, Bennett has been putting forth effort on defense as well. His defense in the paint could stand to improve, but NBA.com shows he has seen success defending shots from everywhere else (h/t NBA.com). Furthermore, the UNLV product has the best defensive rating of all rookies who have played at least 10 minutes.

This early into the season, you can spin Anthony Bennett's successes and failures any way you'd like. The truth of the matter is that Bennett, unlike his fellow top draftees, is not getting the playing time typical of a No. 1 overall pick. As a result, his progression is going to be slower. It's no guarantee that he'll redeem himself by the end of the season, or during his career, but the fact of the matter is that his unique circumstances do not merit panic over the fact that he has yet to score a basket.

 

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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