“You’re actually the worst NBA player I’ve ever seen.”
“Y would anyone go to this” (In relation to a basketball camp started by the player)
“F*** you b****, u are the most soft egg in the world.”
These are a few examples of comments left on posts from current G-League forward Anthony Bennett within the last year and a half. Bennett was drafted in 2013. For some, this is just noise, but for players who are playing for their careers, and trying to show what they have to give, this is extremely uncalled for and hard to deal with.
Bennett wholeheartedly deserves another chance in the NBA. That sentence may sound baffling to someone who just knows Bennett for his label of being one of the worst “draft busts” in NBA history, but I am here to set the record straight, he deserves another chance.
Let’s start with the biggest reason why. Bennett played for the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario in the NBA G-League last season and finished with averages of 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists, relatively mediocre numbers. However, unlike his peers, Bennett only played 20.9 minutes per game.
If you expand these numbers to a per-36 range, his averages are much better at 20.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals. While these numbers are nice, they do not provide a 100% accurate measure of what his stats might be, Bennett needs something else to make him pop to general managers.
In fact, Bennett realized this and particularly these past two NBA G-League seasons he has added a 3-point shot to his arsenal. Last G-League season when he played with the Maine Island Red Claws, he shot 8.1 3-point attempts per game since he played around 30 minutes per game. He was also on pace to do this for the Northern Arizona Suns and Agua Caliente Clippers, the teams he played for in the same time span, and each time shot well over 40 percent from deep. In fact, this season he shot a whopping 45 percent from deep.
Bennett does all of this on low usage, at 19.5 percent and has greatly improved his ball control, moving down from a 20.3 percent turnover percentage with the Northern Arizona Suns to a 12.5 percent turnover percentage this season. He posts solid win-shares, box plus-minus, and VORP at 2.3, 4.5 and 1.4 respectively.
However, the most impressive advanced stat Bennett has under his belt is his ridiculous 132 offensive rating, good for a 22 net rating on a mediocre team that missed the playoffs.
All of these stats would have certainly led to a job for any other power forward in the G-League this past season, or at least promises to training camp, but Bennett has missed the last two NBA seasons since being drafted in 2013.
Teams likely have worries about Bennett’s motor, as it was questionable since being drafted, but Bennett has definitely shown he has sorted those problems out in the G-League and has no other concerns as he is still only 26 years old.
Unfortunately, Bennett has not been able to shake the “bust” label that he and so many others have shared since entering the league. Many ridicule Bennett along with Kwame Brown and Greg Oden, who both failed to produce in the league after being taken overall. However, Brown was noted to be heavily pressured by Michael Jordan, potentially hurting his mentality, and Oden was talented immensely but was sadly oft-injured.
However, no one looks behind the scenes as to why Bennett did not succeed in the NBA. Without making excuses for Bennett, right out of the gates Bennett only played for one team in his time in the league that had a winning record, and that was well beyond his capability for NBA redemption.
Bennett was already being labeled a “bust” despite only playing 14.3 minutes per game in his first two seasons before the Raptors. And Bennett only played 4.4 minutes per game for the contending Raptors. Bennett also never was able to have an entire offseason with a single team, being moved after only one season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, then being abandoned by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, and Phoenix Suns.
The teams that Bennett played for had a combined record of 120-203, or a .372 win percentage. If you take the 56-26 Raptors away, whom he only played 19 games for, this record drops to 64-177, or an abysmal .266 win percentage.
All of this disorganization and unfairness by teams stems all the way back to when Bennett was selected with the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Everyone was taken aback by this drafting because Bennett was WIDELY anticipated to be taken anywhere from 5-14, with most zeroing in on him being taken eighth overall.
In fact, most draft boards at the time locked into Alex Len being the first overall pick as he impressed in pre-draft interviews. Bennett himself was likely not expecting to be taken first overall, and being the first pick carries huge expectations for players. Look at Zion Williamson for example who, before even stepping foot onto an NBA court, is being named the next LeBron James and has expectations to pair up with top NBA talents.
While Zion is a completely different story than Bennett, it shows that being the first pick can be overwhelming, especially when you are not expecting it or mentally prepared for it.
Fans forget that players are still humans, they have wants, wishes, emotions, and pain. They read comments, such as the ones at the beginning of this article, that people leave and they hear the relentless slander they get on national television. Some are lucky enough to tune it out, and others are not. Bennett has done an excellent job of shredding this irrational thought that he cannot play basketball, for those that have been paying attention. And sooner rather than later, this should pay off.