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Has Any No. 1 Pick Started as Slowly as Cavs' Anthony Bennett?

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2017

If you only looked at his numbers, you might think that Anthony Bennett was an undrafted rookie hoping to make a mark and earn a roster spot with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, once you learned that he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, your jaw might hit the floor.

Kind of like Bill Simmons' did when Bennett was actually picked.

So far, Bennett has been awful. There's no sugarcoating it here, as he missed the first 15 shots of his NBA career and took five games to record even a single made field goal.

At this point, it begs the question: Has any No. 1 pick ever started out this slowly? 

 

What Has Bennett Done?

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Anthony Bennett #15 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots a foul shot against the Brooklyn Nets during a game at the Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees t
Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Nothing. 

Well, that's a slight exaggeration. He's missed a lot of shots, and that counts as something!

All kidding aside, though, Bennett has at least made an impact on the glass. Through the first five outings of his career, he's averaging 1.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.4 blocks per game, and those numbers on the boards are surprisingly solid. Per 36 minutes, he's pulling down 9.4 rebounds. 

But the shooting percentages...Oh gawd, the shooting percentages. 

He's shooting 5.0 percent from the field. Seriously, I didn't think I'd ever have to type out a single-digit shooting percentage, but Bennett has forced my hand by making only one of his first 20 attempts from the field. The No. 1 pick is also shooting 9.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc and 50 percent at the charity stripe. 

You aren't completely alone, Anthony!
You aren't completely alone, Anthony!Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It all adds up to a true shooting percentage of 11.5, which is the worst number I can ever remember seeing, and I've looked at a lot of random players' numbers over the years. Basketball-Reference's magical Play Finder backs up the theory. 

In the history of the NBA, only 28 seasons have been recorded in which a player made at least one field goal and recorded a true shooting percentage of 15 or less. Interestingly enough, four are currently in progress: Bennett, Luigi Datome, Mirza Teletovic and Ian Clark. So the number will presumably shrink as they get off the schneid

Of those 28, only two have posted worse numbers than Bennett's.

Ralph Wells posted a 9.9 true shooting percentage in 1962-63, making one of his seven field-goal attempts and missing all seven shots at the charity stripe. David Wingate was 1-of-9 for an 11.1 true shooting percentage in 1999-00. 

David Wingate wasn't laughing when he was with the Bulls in 1999-00.
David Wingate wasn't laughing when he was with the Bulls in 1999-00.Elsa/Getty Images

That's it.

Joe Kennedy is tied with him, and Thales McReynolds—a name that sounds like it's straight out of Key and Peele (h/t Joel Cordes)—joins Ron Horn as the only other players on the wrong side of 12. 

The word "historically" gets thrown around a bit much nowadays, but now is an appropriate time to use it. Bennett has been a historically bad shooter through the first five games of his career. 

Quite frankly, that word may not be strong enough. 

 

Recent No. 1 Picks

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 29: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Hornets looks on during the game agains the Charlotte Bobcats at the Time Warner Cable Arena on December 29, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
Kent Smith/Getty Images

This is something we just haven't seen in recent years. 

Granted, the 2013 draft class was notoriously weak at the top and—for the first time in a while—boasted no clear-cut favorite in the No. 1 spot. Even in years when there's been a debate between players like Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams or Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, some young studs have stood out about the rest of the pack. 

Bennett has already been held without a field goal in four of the first five games of his career. To put that into context, none of the last five No. 1 picks have recorded more than one game throughout their rookie seasons with fewer than one bucket. 

Of the last five, Anthony Davis was the only one to do so. Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and John Wall made at least one in every game of their first professional seasons. Blake Griffin never recorded less than three. 

Blake Griffin finds the thought of going an entire game without making a shot humorous.
Blake Griffin finds the thought of going an entire game without making a shot humorous.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

And if you go back even further, no one in the last 10 years has even matched Bennett's total of four field-goal-less games. 

Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut and Greg Oden (counting only the games in which he was healthy enough to suit up) each had three. But think about that for a second. All three of those guys were big men more suited for playing on the defensive end of the court than anything else. 

While they were supposed to be stoppers and rebounders with raw offensive skill, the versatility of Bennett's scoring game figured to be one of his primary strengths.

Strange, right? 

The other No. 1 picks over the last decade fared even better. 

Andrea Bargnani only had two games with a goose egg in the relevant column, and LeBron James scored at least two buckets each time he took to the court. 

Again, there just isn't a comparison for this type of early-season futility. But is there if we go even further back into the annals of NBA history?

 

Any Older Comparisons?

BOSTON - 1987:  Brad Daugherty #43 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands next to Larry Bird #33 of the Boston Celtics during a game played in 1987 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
Dick Raphael/Getty Images

After looking through the game logs of every top rookie drafted since Art Heyman was selected at No. 1 out of Duke in 1963 (the year that Basketball-Reference starts displaying game logs), I can safely say that this is unique. No first pick in NBA history has ever gotten off to a start this slow. 

In fact, only two names stand out after that copious research. 

First, we have Brad Daugherty, who is both the older and less applicable comparison. 

Back in 1986-87, the Cleveland Cavaliers big man got off to a sort-of slow start. He scored eight points in his professional debut against the Washington Bullets, doing so on 3-of-8 shooting from the field. Daugherty's second game was more of a masterpiece, as he dropped 18 points and 15 rebounds on only 15 field-goal attempts. While turnovers were problematic, he was already proving why he was the No. 1 pick. 

But then the wheels came off. 

Daugherty was 1-of-8 in his third game and stopped getting so heavily involved. Over the next two games, he'd score a total of 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting, which allowed him to finish the opening five-game salvo with a 45.6 true shooting percentage. 

Again, not even close to as bad as Bennett's debut, but still not as stellar as we've come to expect from No. 1 picks. There have been worse sets of five-game starts for No. 1 picks, but I'm homing in on Daugherty because he was selected in the midst of a run of great top rookies. 

David Robinson and Patrick Ewing sandwich him, and Hakeem Olajuwon was picked at No. 1 just two years prior. Compared to all of them, he stands out in a negative way, even if he'd turn his rookie season around and make a strong second-half run at Rookie of the Year. 

The other comparison is a name you've probably heard thrown around as a draft bust countless times: Kwame Brown. 

20 Nov 2001  Kwame Brown #5 of the Washington Wizards attempts to work the ball in the post against Elden Campbell #5 of the Charlotte Hornets at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.  DIGITAL IMAGE  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Playing for the Washington Wizards during the 2001-02 season, Brown shot just 6-of-17 during the first five games of his ill-fated NBA career, averaging 4.2 points per contest in the process. He was solid at the charity stripe and made contributions in other ways, as well. 

Doesn't that just about say it all?

Brown has become virtually synonymous with the term "draft bust," and while he's the closest comparison to Bennett's slow start over the 50 years of basketball history I analyzed, he's still making the UNLV product look like a scrub. 

CANTON, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Profile shot of Anthony Bennett #15 of the Cleveland Cavaliers as he awaits a free throw attempt in the game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on October 15, 2013 in Canton, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: Use
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Fortunately, there's plenty of time for Bennett to get his career back on track. We're talking about a sample size of only five games, after all. 

Seeing the ball go through the net—even once—is surely going to aid the NBA's most recent No. 1 pick. That always helps imbue a little bit of confidence, even if the make came on the heels of 15 misses in a row. 

Additionally, it will help Bennett to choose his shots more carefully. 

He's been far too prone to jacking up shots without thinking, lofting the ball up in the general direction of the rim as soon as it hits him in the hand. And it doesn't matter where on the court he's been, as 11 of his 20 shots have come from beyond the three-point arc. 

It's time for him to slow down and start picking and choosing his spots. Bennett—contrary to what his shot selection might lead you to believe—is not a three-point shooter.

Not at this stage of his career. While he was at UNLV, he took 2.7 triples per game and made 37.5 percent of them. Respectable numbers, sure, but not ones that allow him to transition to the next level, take a few steps back and keep hitting shots.

Thinking before shooting is a must from this point forward. 

With only five games under his belt, Bennett is by no means a bust. But now he needs to stop playing like one. 

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