So the Philadelphia 76ers may or may not be trading for Anthony Bennett. If the Sixers do acquire Bennett, it would be for the low, low price of Thaddeus Young, who has one guaranteed year left on his contract.After Bennett’s disastrous rookie year in Cleveland, why, exactly, would the Sixers be willing to take Bennett into the fold? Well, here’s a look at three potential positives that could make the 2013-14 season a distant memory. Bennett may never justify his #1 draft slot, but based on the price that the Sixers would be paying for him, it would be a bargain if Bennett turned into a reliable long-term rotation player.
1. Lack of Continuity
Last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers team was one of the worst possible environments for any young player to learn the ropes of the professional game. Even somebody like Giannis Antetokounmpo, who played for the 17-65 Milwaukee Bucks, had a better overall environment than the Cavs: Giannis was not playing with infighting teammates, like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
Also, the Bucks were not hell-bent on securing the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, as the Cavs appeared to be by trading for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes at the deadline. By trying (and, as it turned out, failing) to reach the playoffs, the Cavs also restricted Bennett’s opportunities to learn and grow with additional minutes: Bennett played 663 minutes last year, and Giannis played 1,897.
Also, out of Bennett’s 663 minutes, the most that he played with the same group of four teammates was 39 minutes! According to 82games.com, that unit consisted of Jarrett Jack, Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles, and … Andrew Bynum!
That’s right, the group that Bennett played the most for included the league’s biggest malcontent (or, perhaps, ex-malcontent) who only appeared in 24 early-season games for the Cavs. It would be hard for any player to produce in Bennett’s unenviable position.
Bennett’s massive 7’1″ wingspan lines up precisely with the type of long and versatile players that the Sixers are clearly targeting as a part of the team. If you look at the players that the Sixers have invested high draft picks in — Michael Carter-Williams, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric — to the players they’ve picked up on the cheap — Henry Sims, Jarvis Varnado, Jerami Evans — they are all extremely long players.
Cumulatively, this is a group that should effectively shrink the opponents’ passing lanes down to nothing. Acquiring Bennett would not, at least, force Philadelphia to deviate from the general plan.
3. Shooting Range
It’s true, Bennett’s shooting percentages last year were some kind of atrocious: 24.5 percent outside the arc, and only 39.0 percent inside the arc. But, in college, Bennett did show that he can fill up the basket: during his one year at UNLV, Bennett shot 37.5 percent outside the arc, and 58.7 percent inside it, both of them tremendous marks.
As long as Bennett’s shooting accuracy with the Cavs was a prolonged slump (maybe due to that lack of continuity) and not a harbinger of things to come, he would really compliment the paint-dwelling duo of Embiid and Nerlens Noel.
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No, none of these positives are very concrete steps to build on. It’s not as if Bennett excelled at, say, shot-blocking last year, while the rest of his game crumbled. But at this point in time, as Bennett tries to revive his career, that’s just going to be how it is.