It’s been an interesting summer for the Timberwolves Anthony Bennett. Playing a lot of undersized “center” for Team Canada, the 6’8 Bennett seems to have found his game. At the very least he’s been active and effective and those aren’t phrases that have been thrown around a lot with his name attached until recently.
“I think the game is played with a lot more versatility these days,” Team Canada general manager Steve Nash said. “I think it’s very common for teams to play smaller, quicker, more mobile, more versatile at both ends of the floor. Obviously Anthony has a lot of versatility. He can play multiple positions.”
“(Bennett) has arguably been our highest energy guy in practice,” head coach Jay Triano said. “I don’t really try to classify who’s a four and who’s a five, who’s a center and who’s a power forward. We ask our first big down the floor to be the guy who occupies space and looks for something in transition and with his speed and the way that he runs, he is usually the first guy down the floor. Now if you want to call that the four or the five then you can give it a number, but I told him not to worry about numbers, be the first guy down (and) rebound the crap out of the ball. Get it every time that it’s available. I said that will keep you on the floor longer, that will let other people see what type of skills that you have and he has a lot of basketball skills.”
Without a doubt, at both the Pan Am Games and the Tutu Marchand Cup, Bennett has rebounded the crap out of the ball and picked up his share of double-doubles.
The Cleveland Cavaliers should never have taken the Canadian big man first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. He was coming off an injury and no one except Cleveland thought he would go that high. After a brutally disappointing rookie campaign, the Cavs managed to foist him onto the Timberwolves as part of the Kevin Love trade where things went only marginally better. Bust is a word most often associated with Bennett over his first two seasons, but injuries and competition of playing time have played a big role in that.
He has only averaged 54.5 games and 14.3 minutes in his first two NBA seasons, so the 4.7 points and 3.4 rebounds should be understandable – not that there’s a whole lot of sympathy out the for a first overall draft pick earning over $5 million a season. For the teams he has played for, those results still hurt.
What might signal things could get better is his per 36 minute averages of 11.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. The Cavs couldn’t have got their scouting so wrong that there isn’t actual talent here – assuming he can get and stay healthy.
“The body is healthy,” Triano said after watching Bennett working out with Team Canada. “He is as fit as he’s ever been. He is in great shape.”
At the Pan Am Games in Toronto, Bennett was a major factor in Canada winning their first ever medal at this tournament. Averaging 15.6 points on 56 percent shooting and 9.4 rebounds in 26.4 minutes over the five games, Bennett was the mobile big man Coach Triano envisioned he could be. Bennett even hit on 5 of his 14 three-point attempts, but it was his activity and team-leading rebounding that made him so effective.
In Puerto Rico at the Tuto Marchand Cup, Canada went undefeated and Bennett put in another couple of double-double performances over the four games as he averaged 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 23.8 minutes. Bennett led his team in rebounding once again.
Bennett has looked good with Team Canada this summer, but that doesn’t mean the trade rumors are about to go away or that Minnesota is about to go small and versatile with Nikola Pekovic, Karl Anthony-Towns, Gorgui Deng, Nemanja Bjelica and Adreian Payne all needing minutes. However, for perhaps the first time since Bennett was drafted, we got a taste of what he can do and could become.
“(Bennett will) probably (play) the four and the five,” Triano said. “I don’t mind him playing the five spot, especially if Andrew Nicholson is spreading the floor as a stretch four. He has got that ability where he, depending on who he is on the floor with, he can be a guy who can stretch the floor or he can roll and do damage inside.”