Searching for Signs of Life from Cleveland Cavaliers' Anthony Bennett

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Searching for Signs of Life from Cleveland Cavaliers' Anthony Bennett
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

If Kyrie Irving's rookie season was a grizzly bear, you could say Anthony Bennett's has been a newborn cub.

There's nothing wrong with a cub. They're typically cute and cuddly looking and have the potential to grow into something fierce and domineering.

It's safe to say Bennett is still in his infant stage.

He's battled the pressure of being an unexpected No. 1 overall pick, missed the summer league while rehabbing from shoulder surgery and is dealing with sleep apnea and asthma.

And yes, he's grossly overweight.

Is Bennett shaping up to be a major bust, or can he rebound (literally and figuratively) and turn into a productive NBA player?

Here's some signs he could still be the latter.

 

Shooting

For a man listed at 6'8" and 259 pounds, Bennett does have a nice-looking shot.

Unfortunately for him and the Cavaliers, it hasn't been going in.

Take a look at Bennett's shot chart through his first 14 games.

NBA.com/stats

Okay, it's ugly. But it could be worse, right?

Bennett apparently favors the left side of the court. He's 7-of-18 on field goals from the five areas on the left side—good for 39 percent. While this number certainly isn't great by traditional shooting standards, it is a nice increase from his overall 24.1 percent clip.

Nineteen of his first 54 field-goal attempts (35.2 percent) have come from the three-point line, where he's shooting just 21 percent.

The Cavaliers need to do a better job of getting Bennett in pick-and-roll situations where he can get to the basket or shoot a mid-range jumper. Three-point shooting is far from Bennett's best weapon right now and is something he'd be better off avoiding for now.

Recently though, Bennett has been better as an overall scorer. While his last four games have been far from impressive, we have seen some signs of life from Bennett.

This is a game where you're considered a success by missing half of your shots, and Bennett has been darn close to that number lately.

Sign of Life Stat: 47.1 percent shooting, 5.0 points last four games (13.5 percent shooting, 1.3 points first 10 games).

 

Rebounding

Hidden by his poor offensive game has been a pretty decent rebounding effort thus far by Bennett.

For the season, he's averaging 2.4 boards in 11.4 minutes per game. This can be stretched to 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, a number one would expect from a combo forward. 

Bennett has the frame to be an excellent rebounder. He's got a thick midsection, which few forwards will be able to move out of position once he gets into better playing shape.

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavaliers rebound the ball better when Bennett is on the court. According to 82games.com, the Cavs grab 74.4 percent of all defensive rebound opportunities with Bennett in the game, compared to just 68.7 percent with him on the bench.

He's also out-rebounding his on-court opponent 11.8 to 10.2, per 48 minutes of play.

It's just a small sample size, but so far Bennett has proven to be a solid glass cleaner.

Sign of Life Stat:  11.8 rebounds per 48 minutes, more than Marc Gasol, Chris Bosh and Brook Lopez

 

Defense

Mike Brown has been quick to praise Bennett's defensive efforts, which can be a rare compliment from the head coach.

"Defensively, he's been better than what I thought," Brown told ESPN. "I actually thought he was going to struggle defensively, bad. But he's picked up on the concepts, and he's been tougher and stronger than what I expected."

It's worth noting that this statement was made when Bennett was playing strictly power forward.  Now that he's begun to see playing time at small forward, it will be interesting to see if those compliments persist.

At 259 pounds, it will be tough for Bennett to keep the lighter, quicker small forwards in front of him on the wing. The Cavs may have to play more zone to help mask any potential deficiencies Bennett could exhibit on the defensive end at his new position.

For now, though, Bennett has done an admirable job defending opposing power forwards.

Sign of Life Stat: 104 defensive rating, same as Tyson Chandler in his 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year season.

 

Conclusion

See? It hasn't been all bad for Bennett to begin his career. Plenty of his rookie classmates have gotten off to slow starts as well.

To recap: Bennett has shot a respectable 47.1 percent from the field in his last four games, rebounds better than All-Stars Marc Gasol and Chris Bosh and has the same defensive rating as a former Defensive Player of the Year. (See, small sample sizes can work in Bennett's favor just as they do against him!).

Bennett will now see extended playing time at small forward, which may help his offensive game even more.

The Cavs have also been playing much better as of late, and Bennett will be a key player off their bench.

He may still be a cub, but at least Bennett is starting to play with a little bite.

 

GS

 

All statistics are from basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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