Two days have passed since Anthony Bennett became the Cavs' latest number one pick. There still are, and will continue to be, a wide range of people who question the move. It's understandable to question the move, given Nerlens Noel and Alex Len being projected to go in Bennett's place. Noel was expected to provide the Cavs nt(29th in shot-blocking) the rim protection they sorely need, as well as filling their high top quota. Instead, Bennett is the new cog for Cleveland's rebuilding efforts.
Some hate the pick; some simply don't mind it; given 48 hours to react, I've learned to like it. Bennett isn't the defensive wizard that Noel is, but the same can be said for anyone in this class. Instead of focusing on his drawbacks (weight, height, defense), the attention should be turned to his strengths (athleticism, versatility, physical presence). The Cavs have shown in recent years that they do their homework on anyone they draft high. We questioned the Tristan Thompson pick, and his per-36 numbers have improved in each of his two seasons. Dion Waiters being drafted fourth overall last year raised eyebrows before he showed his ability to form an impressive backcourt with Kyrie Irving, who needs no introduction.
The Cavs haven't been a rose to stare at in the three years since LeBron James left, but they have made improvements. They aren't cap-strung; they have a franchise player (Irving) with several worthy building blocks (Waiters, Thompson, Bennett); they re-hired Mike Brown, the most successful coach in team history; and they've beaten the Knicks, Thunder, Pacers, Nuggets and Clippers in the last two injury-ravaged seasons. A team going in the wrong direction doesn't possess the aforementioned assets, leadership and impressive wins.
Bennett gives the Cavs a power-forward who can stretch the floor, beat bigs off the dribble, and pound the paint. His athleticism gives Irving a pick-and-roll partner who finishes like this, something Cavs really haven't had since James left. Bennett's three-point shooting (in moderation, of course) can also improve the Cavs' 25th-ranked efficiency.
Along with the other youngsters, Bennett won't contend for an NBA title any time soon, but his presence can be another step in the right place. Without slighting Noel, the Cavs' priority looks to be adding talent rather than simply filling positional needs. Noel's contributions won't be as versatile or immediate as Bennett's. Going into Year 4 of rebuilding, the Cavs' mission to return to the postseason is clear.
The success or failure of Bennett, or the Cavs, is not guaranteed. But if general manager Chris Grant has shown anything with his draft history, it's that our perspective must exercise patience.