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Monday, March 25, 2013

Scouting Report: Anthony Bennett

Entering the season, Anthony Bennett wasn't among the projected one and done lottery picks despite being ranked as a top 10 incoming freshman by every reputable recruiting service. Bennett was seen as a stretch forward type, albeit one without idea size or body type. He quickly moved up however after a strong non-conference for UNLV, vaulting himself up from a mid-late first round pick to a guy who some scouts mentioned as the possible first overall pick. Now with UNLV's season complete and his upcoming announcement of entering the draft, Bennett finds himself as a surefire lottery selection.

Anthony Bennett has a very physically mature frame for a college freshman, weighing in at 240lbs even though he stands at just 6'7''. Despite a height that leaves something to be desired, the combination of his large frame and length (7'1'' wingspan) will allow him to play the power forward spot in the NBA. He can be a very good offensive option and a matchup nightmare in the future.

Bennett's current game revolves around his jumpshot, which has always been what his game has revolved around, even dating back to his sophomore year in high school at Mountain State Academy. He shot 38% from deep this season on roughly 3 attempts per game. Believe it or not, Bennett is far from the biggest chucker on the UNLV roster and among the top 6 scorers, he takes the lowest amount of 3-pt shots. 26% of his shots come from behind the arc, while Bennett is also very efficient hitting jumpers form the mid-range area and shots near the rim. His ability to score all over the court makes his offensive potential very high.

However, Bennett has a tendency to drift around on offense. As I said, his teammates also like to shoot a lot of 3s and neither Bennett or the guards seem to grasp how an inside-out game would get them better looks from deep. Instead, Bennett rarely receives the ball when he goes in the post - although he, himself, doesn't do a good job of establishing position. And he gives up trying to get the ball down low rather quickly. Bennett is much more likely to move around aimlessly on offense looking for an opening to take a jumper. It seems that everything he does on offense is an attempt to get an open look from 15+ feet out,

Which isn't the best way to use his outstanding, physical frame. Its part of Bennett's DNA perhaps - he shies away from contact at all levels. When posting up, he doesn't put a body into his man and does a terrible job sealing off a lane for entry passes. He never tries to post up and use his strength to get better position around the basket - he's content from hoisting a jumper from whereever he is. And at the first sign of the defender resisting his attempt to get post position, Bennett abandons the plan instead of fighting back.

Its why his post game is kind of a mystery and may be somewhat irrelevant if thats the way he will continue to play in the NBA. Bennett has acknowledge the need to play more in the post in the past, but that didn't happen at UNLV. Maybe with better coaching that will change, but Bennett needs to right buttons pushed in order for him to play more aggressive. That mysterious post game does seem to have a hook shot and a strong drop step in its arsenal, but those moves are few and far between.

As I said, Bennett's idea of offense is often standing around the arc preparing himself for an opportunity to take a shot. Bennett will cut to the basket, but with little conviction. He'll set screens, but ones solely for the purpose of quickly popping out for a jumper. He rarely gets a body on the man he is screening and rarely does anything afterwards besides drift out for a potential jumper. And Bennett does have good handles, but doesn't usually put the ball on the floor in the halfcourt. And in terms of making plays, Bennett lacks patient in the post to be a facilitator even if he did attempt to hold his position. His offensive game plan is pretty plain and obvious - shoot the ball.

Even so, Bennett does have some luck crashing the offensive boards and picking up points that way as well. He is remarkably explosive for his size and abuses rims with powerful putback slams. Even without the desired effort, Bennett can be a terrific rebounder and get any ball within his range. If he boxed out and wasn't as lazy going to the rim, Bennett could be one of those undersized power forwards who put up huge rebounding numbers. He has all the tools and natural instincts.

Bennett also does well in transition - in fact, this is where he will turn heads the most. Bennett is able to travel the length of the court after a rebound, make a shifty move, and finishing with excellent body control. Those sequences along are enough to have some NBA talent evaluators ready to make him a top 5 pick. The way he can handle and change directions in transition make some believe he can play small forward, but besides from the obvious defensive problems, he doesn't show the ability to play off the dribble in the halfcourt setting. These transition plays are just a look at how talented Bennett is and what he can potentially become in the future.

There are times when Bennett would be better off finding a guard in these situations, but once he gets going, don't expect him to pass it. He can handle it, but he dribbles with his head down and is the proud owner of a 1:2 assist to turnover ratio. Among the top 20 PF prospects in this draft, Bennett ranks as the third most prolific scorer, but his 1.3 assist per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) ranks him only 14th. It is safe to say that Bennett is a lot better making plays for himself than he is for others. He can be a bit of a blackhole.

Overall though, offense is the strength of his game and the most interesting part of his game moving forward. His ability to score on all three levels of the court is something he can really build on. In a more open NBA game, Bennett could easily start putting the ball on the floor more and taking big men off the dribble - preventing a matchup nightmare. And he should be able to hit jumpers from all over the court consistently as well as provide a efficient threat on the glass. There has to be a coach out there that can get him to play more with his back to the basket and play with more fire and if he gets put in the right situation- he can be an all-star scorer.

The biggest problems with Bennett's game, however, center around his performance defensively. Bennett has the same problem with contact on this end of the floor as he does on the offensive end, which makes it really hard for him to be a good post defender. He doesn't like to fight back against an aggressor for post position and struggles figure out which shoulder he should position himself on. His size makes it easy for him to shoot over and when he gives up post position without a fight, thats a terrible combination.

Its his understanding of defense that presents more concerns though. These are things that are correctable by a good coach, but its a red flag against his basketball IQ that he would even need to be told these things. Bennett is awful defending ball screens. Any capable pick and pop player can get wide open jumpshots time and time again against him. Bennett's problem, aside from laziness, is he "hedges" the screen on the side that his man is not on, thus creating a very big gap for him to close out on. And with his laziness, Bennett never has any shot at getting back in position before the shot is made.

Bennett doesn't really hedge on these screens though as much as he just stands stationary. He does the same thing with screens off the ball, resulting in plenty of buckets that can be traced back to his lack of help. In the NBA game with plenty of set plays and attacking mismatches, Bennett will be an easy target to attack.

Bennett also tends to be less than anxious to block shots from the helpside, preferring to be stationary in these situations as well. He'd rather get himself in position to rebound, even if there is no shot at a rebound when the offensive player gets a wide open lay-up. Somehow, Bennett still gets over a block per game which is a testament to his natural gifts and timing. His lack of gambling on defensive is also why he is a better defensive rebounder than offensive, despite the fact that he rarely blocks out with any force.

His laziness is another reason why you won't see him ever being an effective SF. There is no way Bennett will ever be able to chase his man through a obstacle of ball screens and close out to defend shots. That dream is already over. Bennett is a power forward at the next level on all accounts.

Undersized power forwards have enough time defending as it is, but an unmotivated one with a bad understanding of positioning is even worse. Its a recipe for a season long stint on the bench or a spot playing for one of the worst teams in the league.

In the end, a lot of Bennett's problem are correctable and coaches will certainly be willing to work with a player of his talent. He just recently turned 20 and is older than most freshman and will announce his intentions to enter the draft this week. Bennett played on a very talented UNLV team, but both his and his teams struggles in the nuances of the game kept them from reaching their potential. Perhaps all Bennett needs is a better coach to fix these problems which is why the situation Bennett ends up in at the next level could make all the difference. At this point, the lottery remains very weak and there is no doubt that Bennett should be among the top 14 picks. The talks of him going number one overall have faded though, and I don't even think he is worth a top 5 selection. Any pick after that though, and his reward should outweigh the risk.

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