Could Move to Small Forward Jumpstart Cavs Rookie Anthony Bennett's NBA Success?

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 3, 2013

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 that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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It's not like it could get any worse. 

This whole power forward gig isn't really working out for Anthony Bennett. He needs some type of jumpstart—something that should allow him to take a newer, fresher approach. 

There's no way he's as bad as he looks at the moment. After 13 games, Bennett has missed 38 of his first 49 shots from the floor, and has one more made basket than he does turnovers. 

But to his credit, coach Mike Brown has put him in an awfully tough spot. Most games, Bennett gets roughly six to 10 minutes. Others, he gets none. He'll occasionally get 20 minutes of garbage time during blowouts, but Bennett hasn't had a chance to establish any legitimate rhythm. 

For starters, Bennett isn't going to snap out of this funk playing sparingly every other night. He needs more time. And in order to give him more time, Brown will have to play him at the small forward position. 

And why not? It's not like the Cavs are winning games with this current configuration. When Alonzo Gee and Sergey Karasev are your only true wings, a little experimenting here and there shouldn't be discouraged. 

Given his strength and mass, Bennett has played the role of "big man" throughout high school and college. But he last measured in at 6'7'' during the 2012 Nike Hoops Summit. And unfortunately, since then it seems like Bennett has gotten wider instead of taller.

Bennett was never your traditional power forward to begin with. If there was an area where he struggled at UNLV, it was with his back to the rim in the post. And now that he's a pro playing at a size disadvantage up front, he's struggling to capitalize on his scoring opportunities at the 4. 


Bennett doesn't have that lift to be able to score over his man in the paint. This was a problem for him in UNLV's NCAA tournament loss to California last season, when he finished just 4-of-11 after struggling to convert in the post. 

Finishing inside hasn't gotten any easier for him as a Cavalier. He's only made three shots around the rim all year, and clearly feels more comfortable working away from the basket.

Bennett is a lot more explosive when he's got momentum attacking, as opposed to elevating from a stationary position on the block, where he lacks a bouncy vertical leap. 

On the perimeter, Bennett is actually getting real good looks—he's just not nailing them. He's 5-of-15 in the mid-range and 3-of-18 from downtown. And they're all open. Until he starts hitting a few, defenders won't make themselves vulnerable by playing up tight.

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For now, the open jumpers will be there. But it's going to be tough for him to find his shooting zone on only 3.8 shots in 11.4 minutes a night.

And whether you want Bennett to play the 3 or the 4, he's going to have to make jumpers regardless. It's part of his game. He shot over 37 percent from downtown at UNLV, and used the 16-foot jumper to set up the drive. 

And considering his limited skill set and physical tools for the post, Bennett will have to lean on his outside stroke to maximize his scoring chances. Even though he's not making them now, he's got a better chance at relocating his jumper than he does of overcoming the challenges the NBA interior has presented him. 

Plus, as a 3, Bennett might actually be able to regain his physical advantage. You won't find many small forwards who are longer or stronger, while Bennett's foot speed remains above average for a guy his size. 

His quickness and mobility have ultimately been what's driven the mismatch he presents. Bennett is a lot tougher to contain when he's facing the rim. He should have a lot more space and opportunity to tap into his offensive strengths as a 3, where he can shoot over his man, overpower him or potentially beat him off the bounce.

A position move isn't likely to improve his defensive outlook. Unless he drops about 20 pounds, I'm not sure anything will transform him into an impact defender. 

But this is about getting Bennett involved and restoring his confidence before it's too late. 

Whether you buy into the Xs-and-Os reasoning for a position change or not, trying something new can't exactly hurt at this point. With the 5-12 Cavaliers getting minimal production on the wing and no production from their No. 1 pick, moving Bennett to small forward seems like a harmless and potentially rewarding move.