Posted June 04, 2013

NBA draft 2013: Is Anthony Bennett the real deal at power forward?

2013 NBA draft, Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett is projected to be a top-10 pick in the NBA draft

Anthony Bennett had shoulder surgery in the offseason that will keep him out of individual workouts. (Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

No one is questioning Anthony Bennett’s raw skill. The Canadian import certainly showed a good amount of it in his solo college season as a leading man for a round-peg-square-hole UNLV team. Forced at times to play out of position at the 5, Bennett still averaged more than 16 points and eight rebounds a game for the Rebels while displaying very developed perimeter skills for a power forward. The question for him as a prospect is how his unconventional power-forward game (and size, 6-foot-7) can fit in with the team that drafts him.

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Bennett’s biggest strength is his polished outside game. He has a really nice handle for a big man and very legitimate range that extends out beyond the college three-point line. He shot 37.5 percent from the arc last season and also converted almost 59 percent of his twos last season on a Rebels team that lacked a traditional point guard. Part of that can be attributed to Bennett’s success in transition — he made 30 of his 41 shot attempts last season on the break, per Synergy Sports Technology — but he also has nice touch and is a decent finisher around the rim. (As an aside, Bennett’s curiously poor 9-for-30 mark in pick-and-pop situations is an indicator of Vegas’ point guard inexperience. He obviously can shoot from the perimeter.)

In terms of explosiveness, Bennett is much better in space and when he gets to face up and attack the basket. His relative lack of size and “standing ups” can be exposed when he is on the block or faced with putbacks around the rim. In this highlight video, there are a few catch-and-dunks, but only a couple instances where he creates his own shot and scores over a post defender:

That lack of size and a “traditional” power forward’s game is the major knock, at this point, on Bennett. He’s a bit undersized, even though his 7-1 wingspan helps make up for the height deficiency, and he doesn’t have a terribly developed back-to-the-basket game. Combine that with the relative lack of fitness shown in this lone college season — exacerbated by asthma which may limit his conditioning ceiling — and you have a decision to make as a general manager. Do you think Bennett will round out his offensive arsenal beyond being a perimeter-oriented 4 in the halfcourt, and will he be able to get and stay in NBA shape and avoid nagging injuries that can derail a promising career?

At the very worst, he should cause some matchup problems on the offensive end if utilized properly, and the upside is there for him to have a very good pro career. You don’t often see a guy of this size with this kind of handle and perimeter touch, plus the athleticism to get out and finish well on the break. Also, UNLV head coach Dave Rice swore by Bennett this past season, raving about him as a person and saluting him for his unselfishness in being willing to play minutes out of position to help the team. So the overall baseline seems pretty decent. Bennett is going to have to work to become a capable defender at the next level, and he’s also going to have to develop some post moves to go with his perimeter skills. If he can punish teams for trying to go “small” on him, he will become much more difficult to handle.

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