This is not the article you are supposed to be reading. I am trying to write about Tristan Thompson's role with the Cleveland Cavaliers now that they have selected a different power forward with the first overall pick in the NBA draft. But it isn't fun. And the Twitter conversations regarding Bennett aren't fun for me, either. Here are some of the things that will annoy me about Bennett.
1. People thinking he is Charles Barkley
He isn't. He really isn't. They have similar body types. Bennett is actually a better shooter. Barkley was an amazingly efficient scorer with a career Player Efficiency Rating of 24.6. He is a Hall of Famer who at his peak was one of the best basketball players of all time. He was a competitive bulldog that pushed Michael Jordan in the 1993 Finals, and was probably the second best player on the 1992 Dream Team. I am not going to compare Bennett and Barkley's college stats and try and prove Bennett isn't Charles Barkley. The player comparison is ridiculous. Kevin Pelton compared the draft prospects to their most likely player comparison. Brandon Bass and Derrick Williams came up for Bennett.
2. People wanting him to play small forward.
He can't, at least not consistently. His lateral quickness may make it hard for him to stay with power forwards, let alone small forwards. From Sam's profile of Bennett:
He has a perimeter oriented game but can't guard small forwards. He played at 240 pounds and is currently around 260. Asking him to drop 20 pounds from his playing weight in hopes that he will miraculously find lateral agility is absurd.
3. People wanting Tristan Thompson to move to his "natural bench role"
Thompson just finished his age 21 season, and showed a lot of improvement. He doesn't have a natural role right now. Just like I think it was ridiculous to tell Dion Waiters that he is merely a bench scorer, I think it is absurd to tell Thompson that he is an energy defensive big off the bench. There is no need to put a limit on his ceiling.
4. Me constantly thinking he is Derrick Williams
Anthony Bennett will probably be quite a bit better than Williams. This will not stop me from constantly freaking out about the possibility that they are the same player. By the way, Williams wasn't that terrible in the second half of the season offensively in Minnesota. Who he guards continues to be a problem. Which leads me to ...
5. People saying that his defensive shortcomings are totally coachable
If I thought that the only issue with Bennett's defense was effort or intensity, I wouldn't be as nervous as I am. I don't think he has the height or quickness to guard a lot of power forwards in the NBA.
6. "Bennett dunks with one hand! Tristan never does that!"
This one is pretty legitimate, and it still will bother me. It would do Tristan some good to be better at finishing with one hand. His hands are small which keeps him from being able to do it. Anthony Bennett appears to be a really good dunker, and in college he was an elite finisher at the rim. The comparison is a good one, and it will still bother the hell out of me.
7. People loving Anthony Bennett when he shows good scoring skills early on; same people complaining about Cavs defense.
I don't expect the Cavaliers to make serious defensive strides unless Anderson Varejao stays healthy. I don't think Mike Brown has a magic potion to make people defend. Eventually, his teaching will have an effect and the Cavs will get better. I don't expect it all to work by November. At the same time, if Anthony Bennett shows good scoring off the bench early on people are going to love him and want to get more minutes. Which will lead to ...
8. The inevitable "why is Tristan Thompson still starting" conversations
What if Tristan Thompson gets off to a slow start playing Anderson Varejao again? Won't there be countless conversations about how they have duplicative rebounding skills, and don't fit together in the frontcourt? Last season everyone wanted Tyler Zeller starting with Varejao. If Bennett shows he is a polished scorer, and Thompson is still hovering around 52% true shooting, a lot of Cavs fans are going to want to bench Thompson. This despite the fact that the Cavaliers played their best last season when Varejao and Thompson were both on the floor, and that the defense will almost certainly be better with the two playing together.
9. Anthony Bennett helps bring LeBron back!
I have no idea how or why this is a thing, but I have seen it on the Twitterz. Ridiculous.
I don't see it as my job as a writer to sell you on Anthony Bennett, especially if I am not sold myself. I will keep an open mind, as best as I can, but the pick really bothers me. Before I came to Fear the Sword, I was pretty negative about the Tristan Thompson pick. I really wanted Enes Kanter, Bismack Biyombo, or Kawhi Leonard. I have changed my mind on stuff after having been proven wrong. I will continue to think about an offense featuring Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Sergey Karasev, and Anthony Bennett because it's the only thing keeping me sane.