The First Round Pick: Anthony Bennett?
“WHAT? YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!?!!” was roughly my response when the heavily booed commissioner David Stern made the announcement. Sure, as a Canadian I was somewhat proud, but as a basketball fan I was mainly enraged.
ESPN’s reports indicate the Cleveland Cavaliers felt Bennett had the most talent of anyone in the draft. But reality reports they were about the only group of people who felt this way outside of Bennett’s family and friends. Many experts had Bennett at 6th overall pick or as low as 8th in mock drafts. He reminds me of Larry Johnson in some ways in terms of his ability to shoot and be a big body who can rebound.
Where he fits in with the Cavs, who reached for fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson in the 2011 draft, unravels the mystery of why they made this pick. With Anderson Varejao at Center, Thompson at Power Forward, Dion Waiters at Shooting Guard and of course Kyrie Irving at Point Guard. We can only assume Dan Gilbert does not want his new number one overall pick as a 6th man on a young Cavaliers team. So he will attempt to play Small Forward at 6’8 and 260 pounds. Reading between the lines of their roster, this is not about a Canadian blowing away NBA teams in pre-draft workouts, or the lack of experts to build mock drafts. No, this is a young team reaching for position, rather than talent, the cardinal sin of the NBA draft. Just ask the Toronto Raptors and the recently demoted Bryan Colangelo.
You can look a few picks later to prove the Cavaliers lost this draft. Nerlens Noel who fell in the draft to the Pelicans at six was quickly (reportedly) traded to the 76ers for 2013 All Star Jrue Holiday. With all due respect to Bennett, I do not think he has what it takes to be a NBA All Star, at any point in his career. He will be a special player with unique skill sets to match his frame.
Bennett now becomes the highest drafted Canadian ever at #1 overall. An honor he will likely share with Andrew Wiggins who would be a more obvious #1 in a much stronger draft class next year. However, the narrative should not be who will have the better career, rather how far Canadian basketball has come over the last few years. The motion of Matt Bonner becoming a Canadian citizen greatly improved our national program and now Canada could grow into one of the world superpowers on the hard court. We may see a day a decade future where a class of Canadian free agents come home to Toronto and offer more on the court than Jamaal Magloire did.