Yes, Anthony Bennett was the first overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft. Yes, Bennett had a horribly, depressingly bad season. Does that mean there is no hope for his future? That's what I aim to see with this article.
Very early on, it was clear that Bennett was overweight... by nearly 30 pounds. He had difficulty moving up and down the court for more than 5 minute spurts and often looked winded with marginal effort. That excess weight and lack of conditioning drastically affected his shooting early in the year, perhaps even along with his leaping ability. That combination led to a miserable streak that saw Bennett go almost 5 games without hitting a single shot.
The disappointment continued throughout the season, taking almost 36 games before he recorded his first double-digit scoring game. But can the statistics show us anything more about his season than what it looked like on the court?
From the first look, it doesn't look good. Over the course of the season, Bennett averaged:
4.17 PTS | 2.98 RBS | .33 AST | 33% FG% | 18% 3P%
Those numbers are AWFUL. And that's for just about any NBA player. Or D-League player. Much less the #1 overall pick. It doesn't get any better when you look at the basic stat correlations to the Cavs winning either:
In order to prove that I'm not certifiably insane, take a look at the following chart of correlations for the advanced statistics:
You may see that the Win/Loss column doesn't look too much different from above (maybe even worse), but the second column shows a different story. What I want to show is that there is a strong correlation to many meaningful statistics with an increase in minutes played.
If we were to look strictly at the base statistics (points scored, rebounds, assists, etc.) you would expect them to increase along with the minutes played. When we look at the advanced statistics though, it is more of a judge of how well the player uses the opportunities provided for them in an effective manner. The only remotely strong correlation that exists is in turnover percentage, which is actually a positive. We can see that increasing minutes led to increased true shooting percentage (TS%), effective field goal percentage (eFG%), defensive and total rebound percentage (ORB and TRB%), and overall offensive rating (ORtg). All of this was without increasing usage rate (USG%) in a drastic manner either, meaning it was not a result of additional touches that he was improving. Simply being on the court was helping Bennett improve.
Given the brief flashes we have seen, as well as the ability that he showed in college, I haven't given up on Bennett. The one worry that I do have is that Mike Brown will avoid playing him, and other rookies, to improve his chances at making the playoffs (and hence keeping his job). Brown needs to give these young players a chance to play so that this team can develop into it's full potential, otherwise there could be a catastrophic failure in the near future...