Anthony Bennett has been horrendous. There’s no glossy way to coat the rookie’s first NBA season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The forward is shooting just 29.9 percent from the field this year and just 20.5 percent from three. Moreover, he’s struggled to just get up and down the floor, his conditioning being a glaring issue and hindrance to his performance.
Though he’s played just over half of his rookie season, people have already started to label the first-overall pick from the 2013 draft a bust. His play this season has been looked at by some as unredeemable and has caused him to be marked by some as a player who just doesn’t have what it takes to make it in the Association.
Little by little, though, Bennett is trying to change that hasty narrative. Most recently, Bennett had a big night on Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings as he put up 19 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. He was active on both ends of the floor and was able to effectively find his shot offensively. It was the best he’s looked all season.
Quietly, Bennett has started to turn things around as of late. In six games since the start of February, the Cavs rookie is averaging 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.7 steals in 19.7 minutes per game while shooting 47.4 percent from the floor and going 5-9 from beyond-the-arc. Bennett hasn’t been an All-Star caliber force, but he’s been a competent player that has shown progression and, possibly most importantly, the dedication to get into better shape.
When you look back at the start of the season and the circumstances surrounding Bennett, it’s quite silly that we were so quick to label him as a bust. After all, this is a kid that will turn 21 years old in March playing against a level of competition that he’s never seen before while also coming off a shoulder injury that didn’t allow him to fully prepare for his rookie season. As some people pointed out on Twitter over recent weeks, you could even argue that Bennett shouldn’t have been getting minutes to start the year and instead should have continued his rehab to get in game-ready shape.
The future is obviously still uncertain for Bennett, but it’s clear that we need a larger sample-size before we cast judgment upon him. He’s got discernible NBA skills and is just now becoming capable of putting them into practice in game action. We’ll see how he continues to develop and if he can indeed make those premature calling him a bust eat their words.