The first ever #1 overall pick to go to the D League
When Cleveland drafted Bennett at #1 overall, I was stunned. I had never seen or read any draft preview that had him at #1. (It was a terrible draft, but still, Bennett's name was top 5 or top 3, never #1).
I then, of course, went and looked at his highlight film, including a breakdown of strengths and weaknesses. When your weaknesses are listed as "poor ball handler, selfish, overweight and undersized" then I am not sure how any team could pick you top 5, let alone #1.
Watching Bennett play in Minnesota -- he tries hard. He could be a plus rebounder if given minutes. He has good form on his jumper and can make a wide open shot. He occasionally shows bursts of athletic ability where he will flash (block a shot, dunk on the break).
The problems with Bennett as a player:
1) He has terrible shot selection. He thinks he is a scorer. He is not. Therefore, when he gets the ball he thinks he needs to shoot it. Guys can be 6 inches from him when he receives the ball and he will still shoot it. There are no players in the NBA who can be effective as catch and shoot players when their guy is right up on them. He never figured that out.
2) He has very poor agility. This means that he cannot shot fake and do anything. If he starts to shoot, just jump out on his shooting hand as hard as you can. He cannot dribble, he cannot drive, he cannot escape dribble and re-set his feet. He cannot do anything. This means that he can only be an offensive option when left wide open.
3) He needs a running start to jump well. I haven't gone through and analyzed tape, but I would guess that AB is a 2-foot jumper. He needs some space and a run up to gather his body weight and get up in the air. Look, Nique and KG are both two-foot jumpers also, but they are freakishly athletic and agile. Bennett, on the other hand, being undersized and not agile, struggles mightily to defend inside or get his own shot off in the post. So, if you are a poor interior defender and cannot score inside, exactly when can you play? I guess if you are a 50% three point shooter like Matt Bonner, you can play. But you need a great team to hide all of your weaknesses.
4) He will always have the stigma of being a #1 pick. Look, if you found a hard working 23 year old guy who was 6'8", occasionally athletic and who could hit an open shot, you'd work with him to see if he could be a contributor (Bennett is certainly no worse of a player than Adrian Payne, whom the Wolves traded a mid-one to get). But there is a stigma to trading for a sucky failed draft pick. People know his weaknesses and they see him on the court and go -- "Go right at him defensively and get up on him offensively". Most mediocre bench players can get 4-8 points a game for a stretch simply because the other team's bench players don't spend any time studying their strengths or weaknesses. Not true with failed high draft picks.
The saddest thing about Bennett is that he is not lazy. He worked to get himself into better shape. He works on his jumper. He asked to be sent to the D League. He wants to be good. I saw him play for Team Canada. Against poor athletes, his willingness to play hard and be active made him look like a better player than Andrew Wiggins (who always seems willing to float and do nothing if he can). But Bennett is undersized and not agile and lacks judgment. Wiggins is properly sized, unbelievably athletic and, if anything, does not try to do ENOUGH on the court.
Good luck, Anthony Bennett. Perhaps some day you will be a 10 point and 5 rebound guy off the bench for someone. I will root for you because you try and because it is not your fault that someone picked you #1 overall.
A personal note -- I once was in a tennis tournament at an old law firm that I worked for in the summer of 1987. I am not a good tennis player. I try, and I have played a lot with my brother, but I am not good. But in 1987, I was 23 and a very good athlete (I could get the ball back in play). As the tourney continued on, I was beating guys just because I could get the ball back and they were old and would make mistakes. I reached the finals, where I was quickly dispatched 6-0, winning maybe 4 points all match. The response? "My lord, HM sucks. How did he ever reach the final? Good lord. His presence just makes everyone look bad." On Monday, the word around the office was about how badly I sucked in the final and how everyone was embarrassed for me.
What was I supposed to have done? Lose on purpose? I had reached the final. I tried, but against truly good competition, I sucked. I think, ultimately, Anthony Bennett may look back on his career and say the same thing. ala James Ingram, "I did my best, but I guess my best wasn't good enough..."