Baseliners A.S. Chin and Ben Weinrib on the Pros and Cons of UNLV forward and potential Bobcat/Hornet Anthony Bennett:
ASCHIN: Alright Ben, we’re less than a month away from the least predictable NBA Draft in recent memory. Charlotte has the 4th pick but could easily wind up with the best player in this mercurial 2013 class. Anyone who follows us on Twitter knows that you are high on UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, while I’m dubious of the undersized Power Forward’s potential. So let’s start there: In an age of monstrous frontcourts in Memphis, Indiana, San Antonio and (coming soon) Detroit, can a frontline duo of Bennett (6’7″) and Bismack Biyombo (6’9″) succeed?
BEN: To quote our good friend and Bobcats savior Larry Brown: “you rebound with your arms, not your neck.” His true height is unclear since he didn’t go to the combine–ESPN has him at 6’8″ but DraftExpress lists him 6’7″–but we do know he has a 7’1″ wingspan. Size-wise, that’s the same as Paul Millsap and bigger than Kenneth Faried who averaged a combined 13 and 8 with a 19.19 PER without Bennett’s offensive skillset. In a vacuum, Bennett’s size shouldn’t be a problem, but you make a great point that he and Biyombo would be tiny frontcourt. Some of that is offset by their combined 14’8″ wingspan and Bennett’s Z-Bo-esque beefy frame. Maybe Biyombo isn’t the long-term answer at center, or the Horncats could run a three-man big man rotation with Bennett, Biyombo, and a seven-footer to be named later.
ASCHIN: Well, if Larry Brown says it, it must be true. I can’t argue with Bennett’s frame or his wingspan, the kid is beefy and those long arms allow him to pull off some impressive put-backs and shots off the catch in the paint. I will argue however with the comparisons to Millsap and Faried. Both of those guys have had to bust their humps just to make it in the league, coming in as later round picks. They’ve built their careers on making those extra hustle plays, basically over-achieving. Meanwhile, Bennett arrives as 19 year old Top 5 Lottery Lock with big questions about his work ethic and a lack of effort on the (unglamorous) defensive side of the ball. Is this just immaturity? Does Charlotte have the right pieces in place to transform Bennett into a worker?
BEN: I find it very interesting that he’s such a beast on the offensive boards, yet isn’t as consistent with defensive effort like always boxing out. It’s clear that he can put in good effort down low, and I hope new coach and defensive guru Steve Clifford can brainwash Bennett into fixing that. But Bennett has always reminded me of former Running Rebel and Hornet Larry Johnson. I normally don’t like player comps (He’s the next Jordan!!!) since they often have more to do with looks (see the Tony Snell-Kawhi Leonard comps) or schools (Nerlens Noel-Anthony Davis comps) than actual skills, but this one is spot on. They are both undersized 4s with big upper body strength, surprising speed, and a versatile offensive game. They even put up nearly identical numbers. Bennett has one of the highest upsides in the draft, and wouldn’t you rather gamble on a big who we already know can score?
ASCHIN: Ben, I have to admit it, you’re doing a fine job of ALMOST selling me on Bennett. And I’m glad you brought up the Larry Johnson comp. See, I’m the old man in this conversation, having watched nearly every Grandmama game during his first few seasons. Even as a snot-nosed thirteen year old watching Hornets games on my crappy Zenith CRT TV, I could tell LJ possessed something special. Indulge me for a moment:
BOSTON. November 1st, 1991. Following a contract dispute that lasted the entire preseason, Johnson started his first regular season game opposite Larry Bird. At some point during the first half, LJ backed Bird down into the post and in one move spun around Legend, EXPLODING to the basket for a reverse layup outside the reach of Robert Parish. I’ll never forget that play as long as I live. Pure Power.
The ONLY big man that I’ve seen work in the post like that since is Blake Griffin and even he’s a pale imitation. My point is that Grandmama had an insane back to the basket game and was absolutely, positively EXPLOSIVE once he made his move. He almost won the dunk contest for crying out loud! That’s what allowed him to overcome his height differential at the four spot and is the one thing I’m not seeing in Bennett. In fact, with the young Canadian’s penchant for long jumpers and face-up drives, Bennett reminds me a lot more of “post-back-surgery LJ” than the 1992 Rookie of the Year. Speaking of injuries…
You know that Bennett has dealt with shoulder problems this year and has had some injury concerns in high school. Combine that with the work ethic and potential “beefy” weight issues and we might be comparing this guy to Sean May in four years. (PLEASE TELL ME I’M WRONG!)
BEN: Just the name Sean May makes me shudder! But the big difference between those two is that May’s biggest weakness may be one of Bennett’s biggest strengths. Even coming out of college, the big knock on May was that he was not a very good athlete, and didn’t have very good hops. Bennett has a more muscular frame and is an explosive leaper with much better quickness. He did have some back stiffness in high school, but he never missed a single game when the problems showed up again at UNLV, as he still put up massive numbers. Scouts seem to have no concerns about the surgery on his non-shooting shoulder, and I don’t see why it would be any more concerning than Nerlens Noel or Alex Len’s surgery. Their stocks seem to be doing fine. The three reasons I’m guessing most people aren’t sold on Bennett are because he’s not a fantastic fit next to Biyombo (draft for talent, not for need, especially when this team needs talent so badly), he’s only 6’8″ (already addressed that), and injury concerns (smarter people than us aren’t worried that it’ll affect his projection or that he’ll miss game time). He, unlike Noel, has an NBA-ready body–both size-wise and health-wise–so what’s not to like?
ASCHIN: Have to hand it to you Ben. I was ice cold on Bennett before and you’ve talked me up to lukewarm. Now I’ll only be partially mortified when they take him at four. Expect several desperate emails from me on Draft night.
BEN: As a guy who was also high on Jordan Hill and low on Nik Vucevic, you know I’ll be excited to see how this one turns out. Washington is apparently interested in him at #3, so Bennett may not even be available, and we’ll get to have a fun McLemore/Oladipo/Henderson debate.