The idea of sending the No. 1 overall pick in the draft down to the D-League is almost unconscionable and seems like an admission of failure. But that just might be what Anthony Bennett needs right now. The Cleveland Cavaliers D-League affiliate the Canton Charge open up their season this Friday night in Erie and I really think that the Cavs brass should seriously consider having Bennett on that team.
Everything is screwed up with the Cavs No. 1 pick right now. Not only are his stats atrocious—5-35 shooting (1-12 on 3’s), -12.5 simple rating on 82games.com—he looks atrocious. That’s not meant to be just a gratuitous shot at his weight but it’s hard to reconcile that this was the guy the Cavs drafted and this is what they got. Bennett was billed coming into the NBA as an offensive stud with a wide range of skills and the athleticism to go with his size that makes him virtually unguardable. We have yet to see anything close to resembling that in Cleveland and a big part is because he is nowhere close to being in shape after recovering from a shoulder injury all offseason.
The problem is then compounded because Bennett is not able to play himself into shape because he’s not getting many minutes, only averaging 11.7 a game—a far cry from the 27 he was getting at UNLV last year. I understand why Mike Brown is having a hard time getting the guy minutes because he’s playing terribly when on the court and the Cavs are trying to win games. But for the long term health of the team they are going to need their No. 1 pick to have an impact. Bennett appears nowhere close to playing a significant role and I don’t know if he can get there without being able to play himself into shape. And then there’s this…
Again, I understand that the Cavs are trying to win basketball games and I agree that they should do that. But Bennett is also one of the most talented players on the team but needs to play to get to the level where he can help out the team. And if he’s not in the rotation, what real purpose is serving the big league club anyways? That’s why I think the D-League should be an option.
Obviously the decision would be a bit of a public relations nightmare and would be a national story and allow talking heads to blab on about how it’s the same old Cleveland and everyone knew they had screwed up that pick the moment it happened, blah, blah, blah. The Cavs can’t worry about the noise. They have to do what is best for the team which is something they’ve done a great job of over the past several years in building this team. They didn’t care about the mass opinion when drafting Bennett, Tristan, and Dion or hiring back Mike Brown. They only care about doing what helps the team get better. And spending some time in Canton would help Anthony Bennett get better.
First of all, he’d be able to play himself into shape. I don’t think this can be undersold. It’s easy to say that he should just work harder in practice or whatever but once the NBA season gets rolling and they have so few off-days, practice time is hard to come by and typically all they get to do in between games is a glorified walk-through. In the D-League Bennett could play as many minutes as possible to get himself in shape. Being in better shape will also help out his confidence which is clearly lacking.
Bennett is used to dominating everyone around him physically but because he’s not 100% and he’s now jumped up to the highest level of his sport, he probably is suffering a bit of culture shock, and his lack of confidence shows in everything he does. Not only will being in better physical shape help out his confidence but just the simple fact that Bennett will be far and away the best player every time he steps on the court will help him get back that feeling of dominance. Take a second and peruse the Erie Bayhawks roster and tell me who exactly can matchup with Bennett? I’ll help you out…there’s isn’t anyone.
Bennett played his last game for UNLV on March 21 and then was not able to do much in the way of playing all summer because of the injury until we got to the Cavs preseason on October 8. That’s a solid six and a half months without playing basketball and without getting that feeling of being awesome at what you do. And we even saw a few times in those preseason games when Bennett actually got extended minutes that he was able to play pretty well. He needs to play so that he can remember how good he is at playing basketball. He needs to get the joy back. Right now he looks like someone who hates his job. He needs to get back to just playing ball and loving the game.
Going to the D-League would help make that happen. Sitting on the bench and playing inconsistent minutes while not being able to get himself into shape will not.
I understand it’s a bit of a radical idea and doesn’t look good on the surface. But it might just be what Anthony Bennett and Cavaliers really need right now.Follow @ClevelandFlack