Anthony Bennett’s breakthrough night could be a sign of things to come, if Cleveland complies
The Cleveland Cavaliers did not look good on Tuesday night. From the team’s scattershot and silent defense, to an offense seemingly comprised solely of make ‘em ups, to the glaring absence of Austin Carr’s retired jersey in the rafters, Mike Brown’s unit looked completely out of sorts in a 100-89 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game featuring a score that wasn’t representative of how the game looked. It was worse than an 11-point loss.
One obvious standout emerged for Cleveland, though. In a season filled with an 0-16 start to the season from the floor, a benching, rumors of a D-League “demotion” (that many say would help his prospects) and a 1.1 Player Efficiency Rating (second to last in the league, entering Tuesday), Cavs rookie Anthony Bennett busted out with what is by far his finest game of the season in the loss. Bennett played most of the second half and totaled 15 points on 5-10 shooting. Playing 31 minutes, Anthony grabbed eight rebounds and only turned the ball over once. His PER is up to 2.3.
The points total exceeds the amount of points Bennett has contributed in the 2014 calendar year. The minutes total represented the first time Bennett has played more than 20 in a contest. It was the most action Bennett had seen since that 20-minute outing, one that saw the rookie miss eight of 11 shots in a 29-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second week of the season. Needless to say, it was a career night.
In a career that we hope hasn’t been irreversibly spoiled by the Cavaliers’ handling of their young prospect, one that was selected tops overall in last season’s draft.
Even with the loss at his team’s feet, Bennett was understandably more enthused following the game than after most others in this dreary, dreadful 16-29 season for the Cavaliers. After the contest, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown praised his rookie’s ability to “stay ready when your number is called,” and it was obvious throughout the second half that the team was making an effort to go to the young man – possibly in preparation for a nationally televised Thursday night game against the New York Knicks, one that could serve as an embarrassment for two teams that were expected to compete for a playoff berth; and one in Cleveland that has been afforded four lottery picks over the last three drafts, including two number ones.
Bennett looked good, though. It wasn’t the sort of dominant game that you’d expect every so often from a top overall pick (even a 19-year old one in a terrible draft), so for those expecting Bennett to play as Anthony Davis (the top overall pick prior to Bennett’s draft, one who contributed a brilliant 30-point, eight-block, seven-rebound and zero-turnover game against Cleveland on Tuesday) often did in his own rookie season, but it was good enough to remind you of who Anthony Bennett is.
He’s a young prospect, coming off of a major shoulder injury, who should be a sophomore in college. A top five lock in a legendarily poor NBA draft that was taken first overall, in a move that was a surprise but probably not worth criticism considering Bennett’s talent and size. Anthony Bennett is not your typical rookie, in so many ways.