After just over half of his rookie season (44 games), many had labeled the #1 overall pick as not only a bust, but the most underproductive first pick EVER.
These so-called experts ignored the fact that Anthony Bennett had off-season surgery that left him unable to exercise until a singular week prior to training camp. “Fat”, “out of shape” and ‘unmotivated” were among the terms lobbed at this 20-year-old kid.
Then a funny thing happened, one that almost always happens with young players: He got better.
17 days ago: The Cavs lost their 2nd of six straight games, but a blip appeared on the radar: Anthony Bennett scored in double figures for the first time with 15 points and 8 rebounds.
9 days ago: Cavs lose their 5th of six straight, but the same blip appeared again: Anthony Bennett scored 11 points.
One week ago: The Cavs bottomed out, losing to a 4-man Lakers squad, but Bennett appeared for the second straight game with 14 points and 8 rebounds.
Then a funny thing happened. GM Chris Grant was fired. Players jobs were threatened with trades. But rock bottom meant only one thing: there was no where to go but up. And the Cavs started winning.
And then last night it happened: Anthony Bennett exploded with his first double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, on only 9 attempts as he scored from outside, on dunks and trips to the foul line.
In this eight game span, the Cavs have evolved from one of the worst teams in the league to the proud owners of just their second winning streak of the season, with Bennett as a major player in this growth. A look at his statistical growth shows the recent results.
8 games ago: Bennett was averaging 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.2 mpg. He was shooting a pathetic 25.9% from the floor and an even worse 14.3% from behind the arc. His plus +/- was negative 2.7. He truly was lost as an NBA player
In the last 8 games (10 pct of the season): Bennett has averaged 7.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg, raising his +/- to a negative .4, a nearly two-and-a-half point increase.
In the last 5 games: Bennett’s numbers raise even higher: 10.8 ppg and 5.4 rpg. His +/- jumps clear up to a positive 3.2 and his PER raised from an epic-low 1.1 to 5.44, nearly quintupling in the process. His FG% in this span sits at a respectable 48.6% and his outside shooting is off the charts (62.5%).
And the most impressive number of all: Three. The number of consecutive games the Cavaliers have won.
While it is clear Bennett is not the sole reason for this surge, he has been a major factor. Cleveland is looking like a different club now, one that appears happy and willing to compete. The future could be now for this struggling franchise and Bennett could be a major factor going forward.
So let’s park the bust label and fat insults for the time being and do something many had written off weeks or months ago: Let’ start believing in Bennett.
He has now earned this opportunity. And our support.
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