If hoping for next Kyrie Irving or LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers miss the mark with the former UNLV forward.
(Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
That’s as good as it gets for rookie Anthony Bennett, who scored his first basket last week five games into his NBA career.
Not that anybody knows who Bennett is now or who he was last June when he was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, because players from UNLV don’t have the same cachet today as they did when “Tark the Shark” roamed the sidelines while chomping on a white towel.
So after the Cleveland Cavaliers called the name “Anthony Bennett” to kick off the 2013 draft, their choice drew a loud “Who’s that?” from people who root for the Cavaliers and from those who don’t.
Maybe the question wouldn’t have been asked had the Cavaliers been using anything other than the No. 1 overall choice, but a man picked in that draft slot has to be a difference-maker – or at least be decent.
Anthony Bennett looks like neither. But it’s not Bennett’s fault that a moronic general manager named Chris Grant tried to be overly creative and show he was smarter than anybody else who judges college talent. Grant isn’t. For no one else had Bennett as anything other than a middle-of-the-pack pick. His performance this season has proved those judges right.
It’s premature to tag Bennett as the biggest No. 1 flop in NBA history because he has a long way to go before he can trump Greg Oden, Kwame Brown, Kent Benson, LaRue Martin and Michael Olowokandi as the biggest mistakes at No. 1 overall. But even these draft busts didn’t need three NBA games to score their first basket.
Look, the 6-foot-7 Bennett might be a so-so player – some day. What he isn’t now is a player who can help the Cavs get to where they were before some dude named LeBron bolted for South Beach.
He, too, was a No. 1 overall pick, but LeBron James was a difference-maker.
Once-in-a-generation players seldom land on a franchise’s payroll twice in a decade, and the past NBA draft had no player with LeBron’s credentials. If ever a team had the misfortune of owing the No. 1 overall pick, the Cavaliers were that team.
Still, you might understand the mistake if it wasn’t built atop the mistake Grant made in the 2012 draft. He used the No. 4 overall pick on guard Dion Waiters, who is too short to play shooting guard and not skilled or quick enough to play point guard.
With picks so high, the Cavaliers surely should be farther along than they are. They still are a young team, and the team has a valuable piece in point guard Kyrie Irving. But Irving might be on the verge of doing a LeBron James: packing his bags and selling his services to a contender next season.
Already you can see the nervous tension in Cleveland, because the city cannot afford to lose the best player the Cavaliers have drafted since LeBron. If Irving bolts, will there be any reason for Tristan Thompson to stick around?
In a city waiting for its next sports savior, Bennett won’t be him, so the years of mediocrity will roll on and on for Cleveland fans who live – and die – with what their Cavs, Indians and Browns do.
For them, it’s always wait 'til next season.
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