(UNLV big man, Anthony Bennett, has been one of the most intriguing prospects out of this years NBA Draft. Since the Washington Wizards have failed to make the postseason once again, and have just as much of a chance to land Bennett as any lottery team, I contacted Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun to give us the latest scoop on Bennett’s game. Taylor Bern has been covering UNLV sports for quite some time, and knows a lot more about Anthony Bennett than myself and the majority of NBA fans.)
Anthony Bennett’s ability to do virtually everything from an offensive standpoint is the reason he is regarded as one of the most versatile prospects in this years draft class. With that said, Bennett was also the number one option at UNLV and players which are accustomed to playing in that particular role have a tendency to struggle adjusting to the NBA game (Michael Beasley, Derrick Williams, etc). How well do you think Bennett will transition into the NBA, especially since he’ll likely take on a lesser role?
There were actually a surprisingly large number of possessions in big games when he wasn’t the focal point down the stretch. It was strange to see, because everyone assumed the ball should go to him, but some of that also falls on Bennett. Occasionally it seemed that if he didn’t get enough touches early in the game he would stop working as hard to get them later in the game. That comes down to work ethic, which will probably be his greatest challenge at the next level.
Anthony Bennett has often been scrutinized for his lack of commitment on the defensive side of the floor. Why did he struggle so much on that side of the floor? The Washington Wizards were ranked amongst the top defensive teams in the NBA (8th in defensive efficiency) and have ultimately gotten rid of a handful of players which weren’t willing to buy into the system. Is Bennett’s lack of defensive productivity a legitimate concern or does he seem like the type of athlete who will eventually develop into an acceptable defender?
I think with the right coaching he could buy into the defensive side of the ball. A lot of it certainly falls on him, but I think that at Findlay Prep and UNLV he was never really asked and forced to put the same type of effort into defense as offense, so he just didn’t. If that is made a priority by a coach, essentially by someone telling him, and then proving to him, that the only way they’ll put him on the court is if he plays better defense then I think he could make some big strides there. Because he’s athletic enough to move around better at that end and big enough to stand his ground.
Is Anthony Bennett worth the investment? Should a lottery bound team take a chance on Bennett, even though they are entering the latter half of their rebuilding process?
I think it’s different for every lottery team not only on their personnel but also who’s left on the board. There are only about six or seven guys I would take ahead of him, and some would say there are even less than that. I understand why teams think so highly of him because what he’s put on tape offensively is extremely enticing. Is that enough for someone to take a chance in the top five or six picks? Yes, I think it will be.
Is Anthony Bennett the type of player the Washington Wizards could potentially form a “Big 3″ along side their other two young stars, John Wall and Bradley Beal?
I think he certainly complements those two well, but again, it’s going to come down to his effort and how much he buys in defensively. No team is going to give him big minutes while he’s a liability at that end. And at the same time, his NBA coaches are going to be more demanded than any coaches he’s ever had before, so that’s going to be a culture shock that could take him some time to get past. If he does, then yes, I think he could pair very nicely with those guys, especially a guard as skilled as Wall.
Even though this draft class is categorized as weak, how will his most recent injury, which will sideline him from pre-draft workouts, affect his stock in the draft? Where do you think he’ll ultimately be selected? Should a late lottery team anticipate Bennett being on the board?
Most scouts and GMs I’ve seen comment on the situation say it won’t affect his status as basically a top five guy. It actually may work in his favor because had he gone against the other top guys in pre-draft workouts, I think he would have been more likely to fall than rise in most people’s eyes. That has a lot to do with how highly he’s regarded to begin with. So, no, I don’t think teams near the end of the lottery should hold their breath waiting for him to fall.
What are some common misconceptions people tend to have about Bennett’s game?
Based on conversations with people away from the program I think people have his game pretty much figured out. He’s got a sometimes dizzying offensive arsenal and, when properly motivated, can take over and win a game at that end. However, he doesn’t always give maximum effort there, and on defense he’s very much a liability. He will likely get beat down the floor a lot early in his career.
And finally, give us your final assessment on Anthony Bennett.
He’s a very talented, very skilled big man who creates a lot of mismatches. He can dunk, or will at least attempt to dunk, anything within five feet, yet on a fast break he can pull up for an easy 15-footer, leaving the defense to throw its hands up in the air. That’s the reason he’s going to be taken so high. The biggest roadblock to being successful will be how he handles the transition to the NBA lifestyle. The coaches will demand far more from him than ever before in his life, so the question is whether he can rise to the challenge. Somebody’s going to spend a good chunk of money betting that he can.
I think it’s quite evident that based on Taylor Bern’s analysis of Anthony Bennett and his time at UNLV; Bennett will probably remain as one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. He’s a talented big man, something that’s very hard to come across in the NBA nowadays, but he certainly comes with some baggage.
I want to personally thank Taylor Bern for taking the time to answer our questions regarding Bennett and his possible future with the Wizards.