Few things set NBA Twitter aflame quite like a #WojBomb, particularly those that involve former #1 overall picks. In the midst of the offseason dead zone with training camp still about a week away, this news Monday basically served as alchemists’ wildfire:
Yahoo Sources: Minnesota progressing on contract buyout with former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett. He would be free agent if clears waivers.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) September 21, 2015
Since Cleveland surprised everybody by taking Anthony Bennett first overall two years ago, his trajectory has been followed with a great deal of scrutiny following that 2013 draft. However, whether due to the heavy weight of expectations, or just plain heavy weight, Bennett has been a bona fide bust to this point of his career. As noted by Bobby Marks, Bennett would be the first #1 overall pick not to make it to the fourth year on his rookie contract. Now seemingly on the verge of his third team in three NBA seasons, speculation has naturally arisen as to where Bennett’s next landing spot might be.
A point brought up on this site and others, the Sixers represent a natural landing place for the former first overall pick. Philadelphia and Portland are the only two teams with the necessary cap space available to claim Bennett off waivers prior to his becoming an unrestricted free agent. Bennett is set to make $5.8M this season with a $7.32M team option for next season, which would have to be picked up by Oct. 31 of this year.
Besides simply having the cap space to do so, there are a few reasons the Sixers might opt to roll the dice with Bennett. First, there was much speculation about the Sixers grabbing Bennett as part of the three-team deal that originally sent him to Minnesota from Cleveland. Also, the situation is very similar to the Thomas Robinson waiver claim the Sixers made last season. Like Bennett, Robinson was a former high lottery pick who’d bounced around with a couple teams while still on his rookie deal. The Sixers decided to see if a change of scenery and more playing time might unlock something in Robinson, who played 22 games for Philadelphia.
Finally, Bennett is still just 22 years old, and continued to show signs of improvement during international competition this summer:
Anthony Bennett was a bright spot for Canada at the FIBA Americas Championship shooting 67% at the rim and making 44% of his jump shots.
— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) September 21, 2015
Still, while it’s fun to watch guys like Pau Gasol and Luis Scola go Beast Mode in these Olympic qualifiers, the fact remains that it’s still not quite the same level of competition as NBA play. And when it comes to NBA play, Bennett has been downright dreadful.
Bennett isn’t a playmaker, having handed out 1.0 assist per game in college and even less than that at the pro level, and his defensive ceiling is somewhere around ‘not a liability.’ So if he was, and is, ever to succeed in the NBA, it’ll be due to scoring proficiency.
Early returns are, well, not good. Thus far, Bennett sports an eFG% of 41.2 percent, which ranks 458 out of 466 for players with at least 500 FGA and 75 3PA during their first two seasons, per Hardwood Knocks. His best position would appear to be as a stretch 4, but he’s shot just 26.3 percent from three in his two NBA seasons, with even the mark during his “improved” season in Minnesota last year just 30.4 percent.
If the Sixers were to take on Bennett into what is already a crowded frontcourt, it’d likely involve both the release of Carl Landry and his $6.5M salary and either Furkan Aldemir or recent acquisition Christian Wood. Philadelphia may determine Bennett’s first-round potential is worth the price, but just the fact that they’d seriously have to contemplate it shows how far even #1 picks can fall.