What to do with Anthony Bennett? His numbers aren't pretty across the board.
The first pick of the 2013 NBA draft is averaging a measly 2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 0.2 assists in his 10.4 minutes of action. Bennett is shooting 23.7 percent from the field, 18.2 percent from three and owns a PER of 0.7.
You could argue no first overall pick has had a worse start to his career. Even Kwame Brown (4.5 points, 3.5 rebounds) enjoyed a more successful rookie year than the one Bennett is experiencing.
Combined with the pressure of being an unexpected first overall pick, Bennett missed out on the NBA Summer League while rehabbing from shoulder surgery. He also came into training camp 20 pounds above his college weight.
If this were football, somebody would have called a false start on Bennett's career.
However, there is a way Bennett could get into playing shape, build his confidence back and rediscover his dominant offensive game.
Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers should send Anthony Bennett to the D-League, and here's why.
Don't Think Of It As a Demotion
Sometimes in life, you have to take one step back in order to take two steps forward.
While staying on the Cavs and playing exclusively in the NBA would be ideal, it isn't the best choice for Bennett's future. He's currently logging just over 10 minutes a game for Mike Brown, mostly in garbage time of fourth-quarter blowouts. It's going to be difficult for Bennett to find a rhythm on the court with his playing time being so inconsistent.
It's not like Brown is slowly increasing Bennett's minutes, either. In November, he was seeing 11.1 minutes a night compared to just 7.3 in December thus far. There's no way to expect remarkable improvements in such short periods on the court.
In the D-League with the Canton Charge, Bennett would get all the minutes he could handle. Kevin Jones, who couldn't even make Cleveland's preseason roster, is averaging 22.4 points and 11.2 rebounds in 37.5 minutes with the Charge.
Imagine what Bennett could do.
Sending him down shouldn't be viewed as a demotion, but instead as preparation for what could be an outstanding NBA career.
It's Worked in the Past
Bennett would be the first No. 1 overall selection to play in the D-League, but certainly not the only first-rounder.
Gino Pilato of SB Nation lists a number of high draft picks that have struggled, spent time in the D-League and come back better because of it.
Tony Wroten was a first-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012. Never able to crack the rotation, Wroten averaged just 2.6 points in 35 games for Memphis. This lack of playing time and production led him to the D-League and a stint with the Reno Bighorns. The Grizzlies, despite spending a first-rounder on Wroten, traded him in the offseason to the Philadelphia 76ers for a 2014 second-round pick.
His time spent developing and getting PT instead of sitting on an NBA bench has certainly paid off. This season for the Sixers, Wroten is putting together 13.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 26.1 minutes a night.
There are plenty of other examples as well.
Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks played in the D-League during 2010-11. Just two years later, he averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in the NBA.
Marcus Morris, drafted by the Houston Rockets, spent part of his rookie season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. This season he's putting up 11 points, 4.9 rebounds and shooting 43.5 percent on three-pointers for the Phoenix Suns.
Avery Bradley, Aaron Brooks and Patrick Patterson are also examples of finding NBA success after D-League stints.
Spending time in the D-League would be great for Bennett, as it has for so many others before him.
Position Definition and Coaching
Right now, Bennett just has too much on his plate.
The Cavs called him strictly a power forward coming into the year, but have already changed their minds and want him to play small forward as well.
That's an entirely different playbook, both offensively and defensively, that Bennett has to learn on the fly. It's not like he's mastered the previous one, either.
Another reason to allow Bennett playing time in the D-League is the coaching.
Growing up in Canada, the basketball programs and coaching are well behind the camps and AAU leagues in America. Playing at UNLV instead of a college like North Carolina or Duke didn't help his development, either.
The head coach of the Charge, Steve Hetzel, was the former Player Development Coach for the Detroit Pistons. He specializes in working with young players and helping them maximize their abilities.
The Charge also employ 13-year NBA veteran and assistant coach James Posey, who played both forward positions much like Bennett. Spending time with both coaches would be extremely beneficial to Bennett's career.
While The News-Herald has reported that the Cavaliers won't send Bennett down, Chris Grant and company could change their minds if things don't improve.
Grant drafted Bennett because he felt he was the most talented player in the draft, not necessarily the most NBA-ready.
With some time spent developing and conditioning, he could easily become both.
All stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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