And this trade wasn't just about the Cavs making a push in 2013-14. Deng will become a free agent at the end of the season, and the team will likely be looking to lock him up for the foreseeable future.
Cavs desperately needed scoring/defense from a three and believe they can re-sign Deng after this season. They keep Waiters, too.— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 7, 2014
Luol Deng says "I hope so," when asked if he's with the #Cavs for the long term. Said he knew about rumors, but trade still surprised him.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) January 8, 2014
And chances are Cleveland wouldn't have given up a first-rounder and two second-rounders unless it had a hunch or some assurance Deng would re-sign this summer.
One consideration w/ Luol Deng is he’s represented by same agent, Herb Rudoy, as Z. Cavs probably gauged his willingness to re-sign already.— Probasketballdraft (@Probballdraft) January 7, 2014
But let's take it step by step. Prior to the trade, Bennett had been averaging just 10.7 minutes a game while shooting a horrifying 27.2 percent. And that's with a team that's looked lottery-bound. Had the Cavs fallen out of playoff contention after the All-Star break, Bennett might have actually had a chance to rack up some minutes down the stretch while the team activated tank mode.
But with Deng, the Cavs are looking to win now. And in the garbage Eastern Conference, they have enough talent to climb out their hole and make a move up the standings. If Bennett was only getting 10.7 minutes before, I'd find it hard to believe coach Mike Brown will trust him in a playoff race, especially since he'll now have Deng at his disposal.
Whatever confidence Anthony Bennett had was likely torpedoed when the Cavs got Luol Deng.— Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople) January 7, 2014
Unless Bennett finds a way to produce as a backup power forward, his opportunities the rest of the way could be extremely limited.
Jump to next year—the last guaranteed year on his contract (via ShamSports). The team has a club option on Bennett in 2015-16 worth almost $6 million. If they re-sign Deng, will the Cavs pick up Bennett's option if he hasn't shown any signs of growth?
I'm not in love with Tristan Thompson, but the depth chart isn't likely to change. And with Deng at the 3 and Thompson at the 4, Bennett could have a tough time finding any rhythm.
I'd imagine the Cavs will eventually try to shop Bennett before he loses any more value, given he can't help now and there might not be room for him in the future.
The fact is, nobody even knows what Anthony Bennett brings to the table yet. He hasn't established an identity for himself—is he a wing, a power forward, a combo forward? Or is he a tweener who's fallen between positions?
Does Bennett have a long-term future with the Cavs following the Luol Deng trade?
So far, he's had no luck at any of them, converting below 40 percent of his shots at the rim, 26 percent of them in the mid-range and just 14 percent of his three-point attempts (via NBA.com). And yes, he has more turnovers than assists, steals and blocks combined.
“I just have to get back to the player I was in college,” Bennett told Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Journal. “I was playing with a smile on my face. It was fun, carefree, running up and down a lot. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I can try to get back to.”
Only it might be more than that.
Bennett was a risk-reward draft pick to begin with, having only played one year in college in a mid-major conference without an established NBA position.
With his rookie year likely a wash and a good possibility Deng returns on a multi-year deal, I just don't know where or when his opportunity will come, or how he even fits into the rotation.
If you bought a Bennett jersey following the 2013 NBA draft, you might not have to wait too long for it to become a throwback.