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Weighing the Cavs' role in Anthony Bennett, draft bust

Former Cavaliers No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett has been cut by the Toronto Raptors. Are the Cavs culpable for his failure?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Former Cavaliers first overall draft pick Anthony Bennett has been cut the Raptors, and it's beginning to look like Bennett could end up being the worst first pick in league history.

Bennett didn't get the team option picked up on his deal by the Timberwolves before they waived him, and with the Raptors cutting bait, his career is on life support.

In response to the news, Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer weighed in.

This tweet was, well, provocative. Was it fair?

I'm not here to cape for Anthony Bennett's potential. He's been absolutely awful in just about every phase of the game. He can't create off the dribble, shoot from three, rebound at an above average rate or rotate and challenge opponents as a defender.

If he had All-Star talent, it's certainly gone. That said, did the Cavs fail to put Bennett in a position to succeed? I think so.

The Cavs drafted Bennett after he'd had rotator cuff surgery and in his time rehabbing from the surgery, he'd ballooned. A good organization sees a player with issues managing his weight (he wasn't exactly svelte at UNLV) and creates a structure for him. Instead, the second Bennett was medically cleared, they threw him onto the court. He simply wasn't ready. He couldn't move, he was winded immediately and had no legs under his jumper.

Now, a devil's advocate might argue that, as a professional athlete, Bennett shouldn't have allowed himself to gain the weight he gained while rehabbing from his surgery, but almost no 20-year-olds are particularly good at managing their diet, let alone someone who has eating habits that line up with playing basketball every day. Going from that level of activity to nothing is a major drop-off.

Despite mixed returns, the Cavaliers trotted out Anthony Bennett to start the regular season and the most depressing start for a rookie in NBA history began. He didn't make a field goal in his first five games. He wasn't just getting mop-up duty either. He had played 57 minutes before his first shot dropped through the basket.

Bennett didn't look like he belonged out there. He couldn't run. He couldn't rotate. He couldn't shoot. And the Cavaliers kept throwing him out there.

Then, on November 20, in the midst of a Cavaliers comeback attempt against the Wizards at the Q, Anthony Bennett launched an airball.

And the home crowd booed him. 22 games into his career, the first overall pick was booed by his own team's fans.

Bennett's confidence was already at an all-time low, and that couldn't have been a worse time for an arena full of people to boo a 20-year-old kid. It's probably the most disappointed I've been in the Cavaliers fanbase.

I expect someone to tell me not to shed tears over a millionaire getting negative reinforcement, but it's more complex than that. This was kicking someone when they were down and when they were most vulnerable.

Beyond the moral implications, it certainly didn't help. It just continued Bennett's spiral.

The damage was done. Bennett might have shown life at various times, but by midseason, his spirit was pretty much broken.

Bennett was a shell on the NBA court, but despite his well-publicized struggles, the Cavaliers were somehow too embarrassed to be the first team to send a number one overall pick to the NBA D-League.

Bennett desperately needed some time out of the spotlight, but misguided pride kept Bennett directly in it, collecting dust on the bench instead of playing through his woes in Canton.

After failed stints in Minnesota and Toronto, it seems a little crazy to place all of the blame on the Cavaliers for Bennett's failure. Three different coaching staffs have tried and failed to turn Bennett into a playable piece in their rotation.

Clearly, Bennett has serious issues preventing him from being a useful player. His three-point stroke never developed, which needed to happen for an undersized player with lateral quickness issues. He's only in his third year in the league, but he never was able to master the intricacies of NBA defense.

Did the Cavaliers inherently ruin Bennett? Probably not. But it's a league where it's almost universally accepted that where and how you are developed are paramount. Outside of a few can't-misses, almost every player needs to be put in a position to succeed.

The Cavaliers failed to do that, and they put Bennett on a road he hasn't been able to get off of yet.

Here's hoping he finds a different path.