Minneapolis: A Perfect Place For Bennett To Rejuvenate His Career

Dane Mizutani
Web Editorial Associate

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Anthony Bennett has heard it all in his one-year career in the NBA. He’s been labeled everything from “a tweener with no real position” to “an overweight underachiever” to “a bust the Cleveland Cavaliers had no business taking with No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.”

Bennett can now add “a member of the Timberwolves” to that list.

Minnesota announced Saturday a mega-deal that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers in exchange for the first overall pick in the 2014 Draft in Andrew Wiggins and Bennett. The Wolves also acquired a future first-round pick from Cleveland in the deal and promptly flipped that and a few other pieces to the Philadelphia 76ers for veteran power forward Thaddeus Young.

Wiggins is the cornerstone component of the blockbuster deal. Bennett, however, seemingly a throw-in player to help balance cap space, could benefit most from this agreement down the road.

As a member of the Cavaliers last season, Bennett was asked to do too much. He was called on to team with Kyrie Irving to form a dynamic duo in Cleveland. He was asked to play like a No. 1 overall pick and help change the culture of a franchise that hadn’t so much sniffed the playoffs since LeBron James “took his talents to South Beach” in 2010. Bennett might not have been dubbed the savior. He was definitely supposed to be a sidekick in the process.

And he didn’t live up to the hype.

Bennett averaged just 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 52 games last year. He scored in double figures just six times and it took him nearly half the season to reach the double-digit plateau for the first time in his career. Bennett didn’t look like the No. 1 overall pick. He barely looked liked the he belonged in the NBA at all.

It might have been the lofty expectations he had placed on his shoulders from Day 1 with the Cavaliers that caused his struggles.

Those expectations will be tempered with the Wolves next season. Bennett won’t be surrounded by hype — that space will be particularly reserved for Wiggins — and he can continue to work on his craft without outside distractions and the pressure of being a franchise-changing player.

There’s no question Bennett has the talent to play at a high level in the NBA and the Wolves are hoping he figures it out. It’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the team. If Bennett pans out, the organization looks like geniuses for getting a guy with gobs of potential as a throw-in piece of a larger deal. If he doesn’t, the Wolves really didn’t give up much more than they were already giving up to get him.  

A good sign for Minnesota is that Bennett flashed splotches of brilliance when he got his opportunities last season. Though those moments may have been few and far between, he always seemed to play better when he played more. He also seemed to get more comfortable as the season wore on and that comfort led to increased production on the floor. Bennett certainly wasn’t everything Cleveland fans wanted last season, but there was hope for his future with the team as Year 1 wound to a close.

That overall anticipation was heightened at the Summer League circuit in Las Vegas a month ago as Bennett averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds and played with an aura of confidence throughout the 10 days of competition. Bennett also apparently caught the attention of new coach David Blatt at Summer League.  

That said, with James officially returning to Cleveland, the Cavaliers mortgaged their future with the emphasis on winning now.

That made Bennett more than expendable in their eyes and the Wolves pounced. He won’t start this season, and instead will hone his skills under a veteran talent like Thaddeus Young. That should further his development and should also add to his confidence moving forward.

Bennett will likely fade into the background over the next couple months as the dust settles. Wiggins will enamor Wolves fans and Bennett should be an afterthought at least until training camp starts. That’s likely just fine with him after all the flack he took last year in Cleveland.

It’s a much-needed change of scenery for Bennett. And sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs.