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Cleveland Cavaliers Need to Give No. 1 Pick Anthony Bennett More Minutes
Last night against the Washington Wizards, the Cleveland Cavaliers erased a 26-point third quarter deficit but still fell short, losing by a score of 98-91. Despite an excellent fourth quarter from Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers were not able to find enough offense from the rest of the team to complete the comeback and bring home the victory.
The Cavaliers latest lost to the Wizards sends them to a disappointing 4-8 record on the season, with a dismal 1-6 record on the road. Things do not look as if they are going to get any better soon, as the team hits the road for games against New Orleans and San Antonio before returning home to take on LeBron James and the Miami Heat next Wednesday.
As head coach Mike Brown searches for five guys worthy of minutes (his words from the press conference after the game), one has to wonder when the team is going to give more minutes to No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett. Despite being blown out for the majority of the game against Washington, the rookie from UNLV logged just six minutes and attempted just two shots, going 0-for-2 from the field and receiving a chorus of boos after air-balling a three-point attempt.
Bennett’s early struggles have been well-documented by the media. ESPN had a countdown of games in which he started his career without scoring, and many in the local media have gone as far as calling the 20-year old a bust already. While all of the negative attention certainly isn’t warranted for a guy who is averaging under 12 minutes per game, the rookie has yet to show off any of that scoring potential he flashed while dominating as a freshman at UNLV last year.
While the rest of Cavs fans discuss trade scenarios to provide a spark to this team, here’s a crazy idea—give Bennett some more minutes on the floor, particularly at the small forward position.
Labeled a tweener coming out of college, the 6’8” and 250-plus pound forward proved in college he can score from the inside and outside. While the NBA and NCAA are two completely different beasts, the Cavaliers other options at small forward aren’t exactly filling up the stat sheets right now. Earl Clark is averaging 6.3 points per game and Alonzo Gee is averaging just 4.3 points per game, while the two are eating up 40 minutes per game.
Now I don’t claim to be an offensive NBA guru, but getting 10 points out of a position that is supposed to be able to not only space the floor but attack at any given time is probably not a good thing for an offense. On top of that, having players on the floor who are literally zero threat to score is making it very easy for defenses to double the other scoring threats—Irving and Dion Waiters—which is contributing to the fact the two are both shooting under 40 percent.
Clark and Gee went a combined 1-of-8 from the field against the Wizards in 37 combined minutes of action, with Clark logging the only three points scored. It may not seem like a well-thought out response to the situation, but how much worse could Bennett honestly be than that?
General Manager Chris Grant and Brown stated they were going to bring Bennett along slowly because their depth allowed them to. Well with all due respect to the two of them, that has not exactly worked thus far and their “depth” isn’t providing much of anything these days.
The Cavaliers don’t have to suddenly elevate Bennett to the starting small forward position, but giving him 20 minutes against the Pelicans on Friday night wouldn’t be a bad start. With two smaller-bodied small forwards in terms of weight (Al-Farouq Aminu, 215 pounds and Tyreke Evans at 220 pounds), Bennett could utilize his bigger frame to post up these players and attempt to gain an advantage. Obviously Anthony Davis will be lurking, but if he is forced to double the rookie, that will just open up another opportunity for someone else on the floor.
While the rest of the city is ready to hit the panic button—some have already called for both Brown and Grant to be fired—there are still plenty of alternatives to try. And for this writer, it all starts with giving the guy you drafted with the No. 1 overall pick more time on the court to prove why he was labeled one of the best scorers in this draft.
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