Anthony Bennett Making Waves in the G-League

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 11 : Anthony Bennett of Canada reacts during a semifinals match between Canada and Venezuela as part of the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship for Men at Palacio de los Deportes on September 11, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Miguel Tovar/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Canadian basketball player Anthony Bennett has been making waves in the NBA G-League lately. The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted the 25-year-old power forward first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. At the time, he was the first Canadian to ever accomplish the feat. However, many thought of the pick as a reach that high up, with Bennett having averaged a solid, yet not outstanding, 16.1 points and 8.1 boards in a single season at UNLV.

Anthony Bennett Making Waves in the G-League

Time in the NBA

Bennett started his career with the Cavs, averaging a measly 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. Even worse, those averages came shooting a horrendous 35.6% from the field. Despite suffering no major injuries, Bennett appeared in only 52 games for the Cavs in his rookie season. He was considered to be a draft bust almost immediately. The Cavs moved Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with fellow Canadian Andrew Wiggins, as part of the Kevin Love trade.

Bennett’s struggles did not disappear in Minnesota. However, he did make slight improvements in a larger role with the Timberwolves. His shooting improved from awful to mediocre (42.1% from the field), but his scoring and rebounding saw little improvement. The T-Wolves waived Bennett shortly before the beginning of the 2015-2016 season.

With the Toronto Raptors, Bennett rarely saw the court. Unlike Cleveland and Minnesota, who were bottom-feeders in their respective conferences, the Raptors had established themselves as playoff contenders by that point. Because of that, Bennett only got garbage time minutes and was sent to what was then known as the NBA D-League to play for the Raptors905, marking the first time a first overall pick had played in the D-League.

The Raptors waived Bennett in March 2016 before signing with the Brooklyn Nets. He played in 23 games for the Nets before being waived once again in early 2017.

Time in the G-League and Europe

At this point, Bennett was all but exiled from the NBA. Four days after the Nets released him, he went to Turkey. The EuroLeague champion team that he signed with released him just five months later.

Bennett returned to the NBA to play with the Phoenix Suns just before the 2017-2018 NBA season. However, he spent the majority of his time in Phoenix with their G-League affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns.

This is where he really started thriving. With Northern Arizona, Bennett started shooting extremely effectively (54.8% from the field and 44.2% from deep). Despite his success, the Suns traded him to the Maine Red Claws after just 14 games in Northern Arizona. The numbers that he put up in Maine were even more impressive. On average, Bennett shot just over eight threes per game and nailed 41.8 percent of them. In 21 games for the Red Claws, Bennett averaged 16.0 points and 7.6 boards in 30.9 minutes per game.

Now with the Agua Caliente Clippers, Bennett has started receiving recognition for his newfound success in the G-League. He’s shooting better than ever at 55.2 percent from the field and 46.1 percent from deep on five attempts per game. That’s good for 13.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 22.4 minutes of action per game.

Looking to the Future

While his numbers with the Clippers (outside of the three-point shooting) aren’t anything extraordinary, they signify a change in mentality for Bennett. The main knock on Bennett while he was in the NBA was his drive. Coaches and execs felt as though he worked hard, but didn’t push himself to go above-and-beyond in order to succeed in the league. These days, Bennett claims to have a serious inner drive to work hard. Bennett himself said that he feels more motivation to succeed than ever before, telling reporters that he wants to prove he was picked number one for a reason. A career-performance in which Bennett put up 36 points put the fans and media on notice — Bennett is back.

Given the success of those picked behind him, including reigning-MIP Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams and Giannis Antetokounmpo, there can be no argument made to say that Anthony Bennett is not a bust. However, his recent string of successful games in the G-League is encouraging. If Bennett can keep up this level of play and hard work, don’t be surprised if you see him on an NBA roster at some point in the near future.

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