Every fan, of every team, has at one point or another found themselves pulled back into it. We invest time, energy, and often our sanity, into following the inner workings of a professional sports team. We count the money they make, we analyze the plays that they run, we observe the relationships between the players and we hope for the absolute best. For many fans, the absolute best seems like it will never come. From the Curse of the Bambino, to the fact that God hates Cleveland sports, every fan at one point or another has said the exact same thing: “There’s always next year … .”
What a soul-sucking statement to make. And yet, we sell ourselves on it. We actually begin to believe that all our problems can be solved next year. We have the ability to talk ourselves into almost anything, with the most recent Cleveland example being “Since Kyrie Irving won All-Star MVP, LeBron has to seriously consider coming back … right?”
The ultimate “There’s always next year” moment in the NBA is, of course, the draft itself. Entering the 2013-14 season, half of the league’s teams, and their fans, had already sold themselves into “next year.” The hope being that a transcendent draft could drastically change their teams fortunes. In fact, for the last three years this is the exact plan that Dan Gilbert had for the Cavaliers.
This culminated with winning the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. With that pick, the Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett to the audible shock of the analysts who were present. It was a pick that seemed to be out of left field and after a terrible start to his rookie season, it seems to be an even worse selection.
Fans are throwing out names like Kwame Brown in reference to Bennett and all but writing him off a mere half-season into his professional career. Bennett’s pro career couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Before the draft, Bennett had shoulder surgery which prevented him from participating in pre-draft workouts and Summer League. After the draft, he was then diagnosed with sleep apnea and asthma. Bennett was literally starting his pro career overweight, injured and with a breathing disorder … ouch!
There has recently been renewed home for Bennett. Just last week, Greg Swartz (Yahoo! Sports) wrote an article entitled How Cleveland Cavaliers’ Anthony Bennett is Going From Draft Bust to Young Phenom. In it, Swartz comments about how Bennett feels more comfortable and that appears to be the case. The month of February specifically has been a kind month, as Bennett has his highest points (8.3), assists (0.3) and blocks (0.3) per game compared to other months. He also had his best month from beyond the 3-point line, making 50 percent of his shots from long range.
With time, more comfort will arise, but there are still areas of his game that need serious work … and some that are even regressing recently. His defensive has gotten increasingly worse as the season progresses, with just a slight uptick from January to February. His assist percentage also hit a monthly low in February, showing that the game could still slow for him further.
In fact, a good portion of his upswing in stats is largely dependent upon an increase in minutes played … which is a significant stat. An increase in minutes shows improved conditioning, a greater comfort, and most importantly, a trust from the coaching staff that is steadily building!
Bennett has plenty of talent, but it remains to be seen whether he can put it all together. He has a lot of work still to do, but to write off Bennett as early as some are, is a mistake that I believe he will eventually prove wrong!