He was included as a throw-in during a trade after his rookie season. He couldn’t crack the upper rotation of the Timberwolves last season. He will become the only No. 1 overall pick not to see the fourth year of his rookie contract or get an extension. He may need to continue his professional basketball career overseas.
He is Anthony Bennett, and is there any doubt whether he ranks among the biggest of busts?
In some respects, such a harsh label might be a bit unfair to Bennett, who is in the final stages of negotiating a buyout with the Timberwolves, according to a Yahoo! report. After all, he didn’t draft himself in 2013. He didn’t enter the NBA with grandiose expectations other than being a No. 1 overall pick. He had only one decent season in college. And he was part of what was projected as the least talented draft classes in years.
And yet: Bennett seems lost on this level of the game. He’s a classic ‘tweener who doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. He lacks range on his jumper, can’t hit a shot with any consistency, and lacks the low-post polish to be a brute near the rim. He’s caught in the middle, wayward, confused about his role and his potential, and fighting an uphill battle trying to impress the NBA that he has staying power, or a place other than on the bench.
He dealt with a shoulder injury that interrupted the start of his NBA career, but that only delayed the inevitable. It took him 33 games before he recorded a double-figure scoring game. The Cavs, who drafted him, had no use for him, other than using him to pad a deal for Kevin Love; Andrew Wiggins was Minnesota’s prize in that trade. And then last season with the Wolves, on a team in transition, Bennett couldn’t muscle his way into big playing time.
And if you can’t do that in Minnesota, where can you?
He is only 22 and he’s healthy. That might get him another look in the NBA, because there’s always one team that believes it can get the best out of a player such as Bennett. So he’ll get a chance, but where and when are the pressing questions. He might be served best by spending time overseas, or maybe a year in the D-League where he can get playing time and not be overwhelmed by the competition. That would allow him to gain confidence and stay in the loop. Of course, if he’s merely average, it could effectively kill his NBA career.
That’s what happened to former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet, last seen playing for a D-League entry at the Las Vegas Summer League, and not playing very well. Bennett’s other obstacle is he isn’t a 7-footer; he’s merely an averaged-sized NBA player and they come a dime a dozen.
Strangely enough, none of the teams who took a chance on Bennett have suffered. The year after drafting Bennett, the Cavs signed LeBron James and used Wiggins, whom they drafted with another No. 1 pick, to get Love. They reached the NBA Finals last summer and could win it all next summer.
The Wolves are in a youth movement that seems to be moving in the right direction. Coincidentally, they landed the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft and took Karl-Anthony Towns, a big man with skills.
As for Bennett? His main job now is to avoid being lumped with LaRue Martin, Kwame Brown, Michael Olowokandi and a few others who “suffered” from being taken first overall in the draft. And he’ll have to do that somewhere other than Minnesota.