Top Five GTA Players to Watch in the NBA This Year: Anthony Bennett
We have finally hit the top two of the top 5 most interesting GTA players to watch going into the 2014-2015 NBA season!
For the last three weeks, we profiled Nik Stuaskas, Tyler Ennis, and Corey Joseph. After profiling the guards of this elite class of Toronto players, we move on to the big men of this list, and none are bigger than Brampton’s own Anthony Bennett.
Last year was a huge learning experience for Bennett (David Liam Kyle/ Getty).
2. Anthony Bennett
Height: 6’ 8”
Weight: 240 lbs
GTA High School: Harold Brathwaite S.S.
Drafted: 2013, 1st overall, Cleveland Cavaliers
After an enormously disappointing first year from this Brampton native, Anthony Bennett may have more to prove this year than anyone else on this list.
I can’t be too hard on the big guy however, as I had already tempered my expectations on him last year for a number of reasons.
For one, his skill set wasn’t ready for the NBA. In college, he put up big numbers in a conference with a lot of small bodies trying to guard him in the post. This allowed him to simply muscle his way to the basket when he played the four spot, or get open jumpers over smaller, weaker defenders at the top of the key when he played the three.
Second, he was hurt during an off-season that should have been the workout of his life up to that point. Bennett ended up having shoulder surgery in May 2013 that made him miss the entire summer league in 2013. By the time he had shown up to camp, it did not appear as if he had done anything at all to get better over those six months.
It’s no surprise that a kid who only played about 40 games in college against physically smaller and weaker players, then miss the entire summer league, would struggle in an 82 game season. Not to mention a season against players that were relatively just as big, just as strong, and way more polished than himself.
But that’s all in the past, here’s why it is time to get excited!
He took his awful rookie year as motivation. He’s since dropped 20 pounds, hired a private chef to watch what he eats, and averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds during the NBA summer league. During this summer, he’s shown he can shoot, he can defend, and he can definitely throw it down.
This guy has the body and the raw tools to be great in the NBA, and this will be the year where he can take that first step towards doing that. A fresh start in Minnesota, with most of the media attention put on fellow Canuck Andrew Wiggins, will be just what this kid needs to re-focus.
Pairing up in Minnesota with fellow first overall pick Andrew Wiggins might prove to be the best thing that has ever happened to Bennett (Photo: David Sherman/Getty Images)
Bennett is still with his faults though. Above all he must improve his basketball IQ and continue learning how to use his big frame to his advantage rather than foul or try to do too much. Learning to play within himself should prove a little easier now that he has such a familiar face and athletic teammate on the wing like Wiggins (the two go back to high school days, playing for CIA Bounce) to pull in defenders, giving him the space he needs to be as dominant and promising as he was during his time at UNLV.
That will be the difference between a mediocre five-year career and an all-star studded 15-year one.
In the long run, we all might be looking back on Bennett’s first season and laugh off the idea that we ever thought he was a bust.
Better yet, he himself could look back on that first year during an interview a decade from now say, “I learned that year that I wasn’t a quitter, that I could be great, that I could be everything they said I wasn’t.”
Here’s hoping, good luck man.
Join us next week when we get to the top of the list of must watch GTA players in the NBA this season. As if it was some secret, we profile Andrew Wiggins!