Cavaliers have 'luxury' of bringing No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett along slowly
This year's first overall pick, however, may not lead his team in anything. It may have been a shock when the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick last June, and many people may have labeled it a bad decision, but no one has argued that Bennett has more than enough talent to be successful in the NBA.
While he may be a tad undersized vertically, Bennett is a burly man who is always willing to bang down low and use his bulk to create space. He can draw defenders out to the perimeter with a nice jump shot. He is the type that can blow by power forwards off the dribble, and power through small forwards in the post.
Despite his impressive skill set, the Cavaliers are not poised to lean on Bennett if they do not feel he is fully ready to take on the pressure. "We don't have to rely on him as most teams would a No. 1 pick, so we can bring him along slowly," said head coach Mike Brown. "We'll let him move and grow as quickly as he does, and not put any pressure on him to get there sooner rather than later. It's a luxury of being around the group of guys we have here. They'll be able to carry him until he can get to a point where he's ready."
Bennett is a bit of a tweener who will see most of his time at power forward and small forward. Some combination of Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller, and Andrew Bynum (once healthy) can handle the large bulk of work down low. Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee, while not great by any means, are both viable options at small forward. Meanwhile, the offense will be run mostly through the impressive young guard tandem of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
Having undergone shoulder surgery after his 2012-13 season at UNLV, Bennett's biggest issue right now is his conditioning and rhythm. As he said himself, Tuesday's preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks was his "first game back since March or April," so he hasn't been able to work out the way he is accustomed to. His first NBA game was an ugly 2-for-12, seven point performance, but as Brown said, the team fortunately has other options who can carry the load until the team's top pick is ready to take on a bigger role.
It may not take to long for Bennett to be deemed ready for that increased role, as he has plenty of tools to be successful, but appears to simply be very rusty and out of game shape. He'll have nearly three weeks before the Cavaliers' first regular season game, allowing him a good amount of time to get in shape and get acclimated to his teammates as well as the speed of the NBA game.
Given Brown's comments, I don't feel that Bennett will have the standard opening night role of a No. 1 overall pick, but I don't believe it will take long for him to become a major part of the Cavaliers' rotation. I'm expecting to see plenty of minutes for Bennett by midseason, but if he struggles early in the year, Brown has clearly stated that he won't give Bennett more playing time than he can handle.