Who Gets the Blame for Anthony Bennett?

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 5, 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Anthony Bennett #15 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands 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)
Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Anthony Bennett probably spends an inordinate amount of time thanking his lucky stars that the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks are such epic catastrophes.

And if he doesn't, he should start.

That's because without those two teams battling it out for "Biggest Abject Failure of the NBA Season," Bennett's atrocious beginning would be a much larger part of the news cycle. As it is, he's still getting plenty of ink for all the wrong reasons.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' No. 1 overall pick has been absolutely awful.

On the year, he's averaging just 2.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 11.4 minutes per contest.

The world had to wait until his fifth game for him to register a field goal, he's been picking up DNP's far more regularly than a top pick should and there's almost no statistical positive to cite as evidence that he's merely in a slump.

But that's not news, nor is it particularly interesting to delve into his historical comparisons. But for you masochists out there, consider this from Grantland's Netw3rk:

Through 13 games, Bennett’s torpid form has staggered its way to 22 percent shooting, 26 percent True Shooting, two points per game, and a PER of 1.2. Plug those numbers into Basketball Reference, and you get a list that includes such NBA luminaries as Kris Joseph, Von Wafer, Antoine Rigaudeau, and Rolando Ferreira.

So, yeah...Bennett's been bad. Understanding that much, is easy. What's trickier is figuring out who's responsible for his disaster of a season. As we'll see, there is no shortage of blameworthy candidates.

Anthony Bennett

Oct 30, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Anthony Bennett (15) grabs a rebound in the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It makes sense to start with the man himself, doesn't it?

Bennett just hasn't looked like a player who belongs on an NBA court. He's out of shape, lacks the skills that would fit into any discernible position and has been woefully inaccurate from long range. The perimeter struggles wouldn't be quite so damning if it weren't for his total inability to generate offense near the basket.

Via NBA.com

There's no shortage of support for the 20-year-old from UNLV. In fact, almost any sign of legitimate basketball skill inspires hope across the NBA landscape.

Everyone wants him to succeed because he seems like a good guy who's trying his best.

It's far too early in his development to rule out improvement and, if he does eventually become a serviceable player, plenty of fans will be happy to see it.

Ultimately, though, Bennett hasn't shown the skills or conditioning to reverse the disastrous course of his rookie season. That failure has to fall largely on him.

Mike Brown

Oct 8, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown talks to power forward Anthony Bennett (15) in the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Bennett's not playing in a vacuum, though. He can only do as much as the situation allows, and the man in control of the situations in which Bennett finds himself—head coach Mike Brown—hasn't done the rookie any favors.

It's worth noting that almost no player on Cleveland's roster is playing up to his potential. Kyrie Irving has been having his worst statistical season, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson are underperforming and no role player has stepped up to fill the void.

Brown's the man who oversees player development in practice and sets out roles during games. He's also the guy drawing up schemes that, ideally, would put his personnel in positions where they could be successful.

He has failed on all counts.

At no point in Brown's career has he shown the ability to get more than expected out of his players. He was on the bench when a young LeBron James dragged the Cavs to the Finals in 2007. But the best you could say about Brown's efforts that year is that he leaned on James and stayed out of the way.

Of course, the worst thing you could say is that it was Brown's inability to engineer a cohesive offense around James that cost Cleveland an NBA title. For my money, the latter is more accurate.

Bennett has presented an especially difficult challenge with which almost any coach would struggle. His lack of a position and inability to get in shape makes it difficult to conceive of a situation in which he'd have a chance at success.

But because Brown has no track record of nurturing talent or helping players improve, it's not a stretch to suggest that some of the blame for Bennett's struggles is his.

Chris Grant

Jun 28, 2013; Independence, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers first round pick Anthony Bennett (12) is introduced by general manager Chris Grant during a press conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Bennett wouldn't be where he is if it weren't for Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant.

Much of the rookie's perceived failure has to do with the fact that he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, and it's hard to know whether another GM would have selected him at that position. We do know, however, that there have been few bigger shocks than hearing Bennett's name announced first.

So, it's probably fair to assume that Grant had few peers who would have invested the top pick on Bennett.

Perhaps, if he had been selected sixth, 10th or anywhere other than first, really, Bennett wouldn't be playing under the burden of such significant expectations.

Granted, nobody believed there was a transformative talent in this latest draft class. But no matter how weak the field is, there's always a little extra pressure associated with being the No. 1 pick.

It's not just Grant's decision to select Bennett that makes him responsible for the rookie's rough start. It's also the fact that he's the one who assembled the Cavs' current collection of mismatched talent.

You see, Grant has missed on lottery picks in serial fashion. Waiters and Thompson are the two most obvious examples, but there were others, too.

Per Tom Ziller of SB Nation:

And therein lies the problem for Grant: the 2011, 2012 and 2013 drafts were all weak. But other teams found good players in there, whereas of those six Cleveland picks—four of them in the top four—the Cavs have one star, one good prospect and little else right now. 

In addition to a sketchy record of talent evaluation, Grant is also the man who hired Brown. So whatever share of the blame belongs to the coach is also indirectly attributable to the general manager.

Dan Gilbert

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Team owner Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks to the media prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Dan Gilbert has been running the Cavaliers since 2005, which means the decision to draft James wasn't made on his watch. And since we can't attribute drafting LBJ to the Gilbert regime, there hasn't been a single move that has taken place during his tenure that could be termed a clear success.

Picking Irving first overall comes close, but given the lack of growth the point guard has shown this year, it's hard to grade that decision as anything but "incomplete."

Gilbert is the man in charge. He's the guy who cleaned house when he took over. He's the guy who has now approved of two separate hirings of Brown and he's the guy who turned his organization into a total joke when he wrote that ridiculous letter to fans in the aftermath of James' departure.

For anyone who has forgotten how staggeringly unprofessional and downright childish that missive was, enjoy the following excerpt via NBA.com:

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown "chosen one" sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And "who" we would want them to grow-up to become. 

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called "curse" on Cleveland, Ohio. 

The self-declared former "King" will be taking the "curse" with him down south. And until he does "right" by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma. 

Just watch. 

That's the man running the Cleveland Cavaliers. The proverbial buck of every bad decision stops with Gilbert. If he didn't influence the selection of Bennett directly, he hired the man who did.

So, if we can safely assume that at least some of Bennett's struggles are attributable to his undeserved draft slot, the rotten environment in Cleveland and the ineptitude of his coach, then Gilbert is the man who owns the biggest share of the blame.

Maybe somebody should write him a strongly worded letter.


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