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Anthony Bennett scrum

Should The Raptors Grab Anthony Bennett?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are buying out former number one overall draft pick Anthony Bennett and unless some team has $5.8 million they don’t want, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent shortly and available to sign for the NBA minimum salary. Bennett is from Toronto and played for Team Canada this summer, so should the Raptors make an attempt to grab him to fill the 15th and final spot on their roster for this season?

 


Ideally Bennett would play for a team with minutes available at the power forward spot and as of right now that isn’t Toronto. Actually at this late stage of the off season, one could argue that situation isn’t anywhere, but as Kelly Scaletta in Today’s Fastbreak points out, Bennett is not a worse choice than what a handful of teams are likely to be using in their rotation this season.

Sam Hinkie is always willing to take a gamble, and the Sixers have the cap space to absorb his contract if he’s waived. The only other team that can do that is the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Atlanta Hawks could look for a replacement for Mike Scott if he ends up in prison.
The Charlotte Hornets are woefully thin at the 4.
Bennett wouldn’t be any worse than Charlie Villanueva with the Dallas Mavericks.
Bennett fits the Los Angeles Lakers’ rebuilding situation.
The New York Knicks could conceivably claim him.
The Phoenix Suns have been looking to deal Markeiff Morris. Signing Bennett could give them more options.
And the Sacramento Kings are always willing to do the unorthodox.
The Toronto Raptors are a bit thin at power forward, and would benefit from bringing in the Canadian.

There is a lot of speculation in any list of potential landing spots for Bennett, but the fact a list isn’t that hard to draw up suggests he should land somewhere and what he accomplished this summer with Team Canada may help shake the “bust” label as would only having to pay him a minimum salary.

Bennett played 19 games for Team Canada and looked pretty good doing it. He performed best at the Pan Am Games in Toronto against what could be best described as the “B” National Teams. The “A” Teams wouldn’t show up until the FIBA Americas in September, but Bennett did okay in that tournament as well. Over Canada’s 19 games Bennett averaged 10.5 points on 57.4 percent shooting and 36.8 percent from the (closer) FIBA three-point line, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Head coach Jay Triano described him as being in the best shape and health he has seen him in and no one could argue with the observation.

At the FIBA Americas Canada had their full complement of NBA players and Bennett’s minutes dropped from 26.8 per game at the Pan Am games to 16.8 as he was clearly out-competed for minutes by teammates like Kelly Olynyk, but he still showed an ability to run the floor, play hard and make a solid contribution. Bennett continued to play pretty well averaging 7.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in those limited minutes.

At this point no one is going to argue the Cavaliers overreached in 2013 when they drafted him first overall. At the time Bennett was coming back from injury and most people believed he was a back end of the lottery selection. Injuries continued to plague his first two NBA seasons, although in his limited opportunities he was posting about 12 points and 8.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, so maybe those National Team numbers are confirming what’s possible if an NBA team is willing to develop him?

Toronto is bringing in four players to tryout for their 15th roster spot: Shannon Scott, Ronald Roberts, Axel Toupane and Michale Kyser. It will be fun to watch them compete for a better payday than the Raptors 905 D-League team will be able to offer, but no one realistically expects to find a player who cracks the Raptors rotation and, if signed, doesn’t spend most of the season in Mississauga. Bennett may still be best described as a project, but he’s a project who is ahead of the four players Toronto is bringing to training camp for a look.

The Raptors have been reluctant to sign Canadian players who they don’t believe are ready to contribute right away in the past and that’s fair. It could be hard for a coach to play another developing player – like say Bruno Caboclo – with the crowd chanting for a Canadian to get those minutes. This isn’t an easy decision, but it’s one that deserves consideration. If Bennett wasn’t a Canadian and had just gone through a similar summer with some other National Team, not trying to add him on the cheap as the 15th man would seem like missing a low risk opportunity.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.