Anthony Bennett: 'I Could've Been a Whole Lot Better' This Season

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, left, talks to Anthony Bennett during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Cleveland. San Antonio won 122-101. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Mark Duncan

There's no shortage of pressure associated with being the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers' Anthony Bennett, who's living through the aftermath of a season that was disappointing by any metric.

Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico reports that the rookie felt he underachieved before finishing the season out against the Brooklyn Nets: "I've learned a lot. Obviously, I could've been a whole lot better."

The numbers seem to suggest as much.

In just 12.7 minutes per game, Bennett averaged 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 51 games. Some of the blame has to go to head coach Mike Brown, who kept Bennett from seeing any meaningful and consistent action in the Cavs' rotation.

Bennett missed significant time in March with a strained left knee, but his struggles began long before that.

As early as October, Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin noted Bennett's conditioning issues and expressed intrigue at the fact the Cavs took him with the first pick without having seen him in action a bit more:

Part of the reason it was a surprise Anthony Bennett was the No. 1 overall pick is that nobody had seen him workout (sic) — he had shoulder surgery and did not go through the NBA Draft Combine, or do pre-draft workouts this season.

After that he couldn’t play in Summer League either. So maybe it’s not a shock he’s got some conditioning issues to start the season.

Former star point guard Gary Payton was less diplomatic about those conditioning issues (per NESN's Nicholas Goss): "You need to be in the gym before the gym opens, you should be there after the gym closes. You came in overweight. You look fat … Get in shape, get ready, you need to prove yourself."

With conditioning slowing his start to the season and injury curbing his ability to finish strong, Bennett never had much of an opportunity to show what he can do. The Cavs spent most of the season trying to prove itself a playoff team to no avail, leaving precious few minutes to develop young talent like Bennett.

Bennett's rookie shot chart tells you all you need to know about his season.
Bennett's rookie shot chart tells you all you need to know about his

It didn't help that Cleveland had a number of bigs ahead of Bennett in the rotation—namely Tristan Thompson, Spencer Hawes and Anderson Varejao.

Going forward, it's not exactly clear where Bennett fits in with the Cavs. Should he lose some weight and add some quickness, he could see some minutes at small forward, where Cleveland could certainly use some extra help.

Otherwise, Bennett will continue to battle for minutes—much as Derrick Williams initially had to do with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In Williams' case, the logjam ultimately resulted in the former No. 2 pick getting traded to the Sacramento Kings. If the Cavaliers look to add some veteran presence in pursuit of the playoffs, Bennett could become a similar casualty.