David Thorpe over at ESPN is one of the guys who really got me into the NBA. He doesn't do them anymore, but his chats used to be both highly entertaining and informative. So when he writes, I pay attention. Nowadays at ESPN his role is to evaluate first and second year players in the league. This makes sense, because Thorpe is a coach at heart, and works with lots of NBA and fringe NBA guys on player development.
This week, in an insider piece for the worldwide leader, Thorpe analyzed what Bennett needs to do to be a solid NBA player. I don't want to give too much of the content of the piece, but I think looking at the big picture aspect of this, it's important to remember just how early in Bennett's career it is. He isn't quite 21 years old yet. He played at a smaller college that didn't have the limelight and media focus of schools like Kansas or Duke or UCLA. He is soft spoken. He was injured.
Being the 1st overall draft choice, not understanding what it truly means to be in shape, not being able to get yourself into shape even if you did know what it means to be in shape ... there was simply a lot on Bennett's plate. He didn't defend at UNLV. He hadn't spent time running the pick and roll. He didn't have a post up game. The idea that Bennett was the most NBA ready player because he had a nice looking jump shot and a big body was always a little ridiculous.
None of this means he can't end up being a good NBA player or even living up to his draft spot. He can. I have never been a fan of his game, but a lot of people who are smarter than me have been and are.
So what does Thorpe think?
I think this is right on. In the offseason, Bennett will be able to get in shape (hopefully), get his jump shot back, pick up new skills. For now, he needs to do all the little things and learn how to be professional. It won't happen overnight, but he can develop good work habits and start to learn an NBA defensive system. With the Cavs locker room in the state that it is, he isn't in a perfect spot. But it's his career. If he does the little things, the game might start to be fun again.