At the University of Las Vegas Nevada this year, fans got to see a little glimmer of the past. On their team, was a young man who was tall, big and ran the court like a guard. He had a smooth shot, threw down exciting dunks and got fans out of their seats. If you squinted just right, you might think you saw Larry “Grandmama” Johnson back on the UNLV courts.
That wasn’t the case though, the player doing his best Johnson impression was Canadian born Anthony Bennett. The young man who was highly ranked coming out of high school did not disappoint in his freshman season. He delivered countless highlight reel dunks and combined with his personality, he made UNLV a very exciting team to watch.
Here is a highlight video put together to show a little bit of Bennett’s game.
Bennett represents the growing new guard of high level Canadian talent about to storm the NBA. Among his ranks are Kelly Olynyk, Myck Kabongo, hoprfully at some point Nick Stauskas and of course, Andrew Wiggins.
Born in Brampton, Ontario, Bennett decided to spend his high school years in the USA, mostly in order to gain more exposure. He attended Findlay Prep, a prep school in Nevada. After a successful high school career, Bennett had ample choices among schools and chose to stay in the place that was his second home, Nevada.
Due to his type of game, which consist mostly of dunks and deep shots on offense, comparisons to Larry Johnson have always been common. By attending Johnson’s alma mater, Bennett sealed his faith in becoming Johnson 2.0. It does not seem like something Bennett minds very much as he has not let down those comparisons.
Expected Draft Position:
Chad Ford and Draft Net place him 4th to the Charlotte Bobcats. Draft Express has him going 7th to the Sacramento Kings.
Bennett is explosive, he isn’t particularly quick or agile but when he goes up for a dunk, the throw down is going to be hard. In the post, that is how he scores most of his points. His shooting stroke both from mid range and from past the three point line is impressive. He shoots it as well or better than most guards in the NCAA.
There are very few players, let alone freshman, who have the versatility on the offensive end that Bennett has. He can put the ball on the floor and take it to the rim, he can play some pick and roll, he can spot up, he can play in the post. He looks a little bit like a young Dirk Nowitzki with how efficient he is at most spots on the basketball court.
Though Bennett is slightly undersized for a power forward at 6″8, he is very long, his arms giving him a 7″1 wingspan. He is also not a frail guy so there shouldn’t be any worries of him getting thrown around by NBA big guys. His frame reminds me a little bit of a David West, someone who is a little small but makes it for it with shear strength.
Not only is Bennett athletic, he has great flexibility and body control in the air. This allows him to adjust for miss thrown lobs or as a way to avoid incoming blocks. Combined with his great jumping ability, he is usually in the air longer than his defender, allowing him to get the best possible look when he gets to the rim.
His rebound ability is definitely above average, what makes his rebounding deadly is that when he catches it, he can just take off. Similar to Lamar Odom in his prime with the Lakers, Bennett is more than capable of going all the way up the court off a miss and scoring quickly. There are few power forwards in the NBA right now comfortable in doing that and that type of ability will definitely pay off in the pros.
Questions about his motor, particularly on the defensive end, have been raised throughout his freshman year. For someone so athletic, he often looks a little slow and disinterested on defense. Like many players who are relied on to score, he is guilty of taking defensive plays off in order to get some rest. That never sits well with scouts.
He also has some issues defending in the post. It doesn’t seem to be an issue of being overpowered, rather it just seems like he does not completely understand how to defend down low yet. Players with good post moves will probably have some high scoring outputs going up against Bennett early on in his NBA career. That can be fixed with coaching provided Bennett puts in the effort.
Speaking of the post, on the offensive end, that is easily where Bennett struggles the most. He is more comfortable taking shots or scoring off the dribble but it will be necessary for Bennett to add some post moves in order to not become one dimensional as a scorer.
Another area where Bennett could afford to improve is his passing ability. For someone who is often compared to Larry Johnson, Bennett is not much of a passer, averaging 0.9 per game. When he gets the ball, the one thing in his mind is to find a way to score the ball. That is a nice mentality but it becomes a little bit predictable and in the NBA, teams will quickly pick up on that. If he insists on being a black hole once goes pro, he will start seeing double teams pretty much every time he catches the ball on the offensive end. That will stifle and frustrate him which is why he needs to look to pass more often than he does now.
What to Expect in the NBA:
It almost seems like Bennett should be drafted by Charlotte. That is only compounded by the fact that they will be changing their name back to the Hornets in two years. The Hornets of course, originally drafted Larry Johnson first overall.
As for Bennett, I would expect a good pro career. He might not have the skills to be the best player on an NBA team but he can definitely make a great sidekick. Combined with a good point guard who can get him the ball in spots to score quickly, Bennett should be a force to be reckoned with.
Ultimately, his ceiling is probably as a guy who makes a few all star teams, leads some bad rosters in scoring and eventually settles in as a 2nd or 3rd option on a good team. I don’t think he will ever become a defensive ace or more than a scorer, but since he is a good scorer, he more than definitely has a spot in the NBA waiting for him.