PF | 6-8, 240 pounds
2014-15 season: 57 GP, 3 GS, 1.7 MPG, 42.1 FG%, 30.4 3FG%, 64.1 FT%, 5.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.8 APG
When Anthony Bennett was a part of the big Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Love trade this summer, many fans considered him just an extra piece of the trade.
But then we saw him get in incredible shape doing workouts with a guy they call “Crazy Frank" and Bennett looked like a completely different player.
Side-note: Whenever a trainer has the adjective “crazy” in front of his or her name, you know you’re going to get into great shape. There’s also a 110 percent chance you throw up during every workout with this trainer.
Bennett came into camp in the best shape of his basketball career and it was paying off on the court. He was running the court with Ricky Rubio, Wiggins and others. He made the hammer dunk his signature move and really looked like he could be a part of the team’s rotation.
He played 11 or more minutes per game in his first four games, which was certainly an improvement given his disastrous rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But then the roller coaster started. Bennett was in and out of the lineup for much of the rest of the season due to two reasons.
1.) He found himself in head coach Flip Saunders’ doghouse. A lot of this had to do with effort and Bennett taking three pointers, something Saunders doesn't think is in Bennett's arsenal... yet.
2.) His injuries throughout the season always seem to come at the worst time. Ex. Bennett sprained his ankle right after the team traded away Thad Young, seemingly opening up the power forward position for grabs.
Bennett’s numbers don’t look overly impressive, although they are improvements from his rookie season. He showed some good things in his first year in Minnesota. When in shape, Bennett could run with the rest of the Wolves. He’s powerful attacking the basket and has an above-average midrange jumper for a player his size.
Coming into the 2014-15 season, Bennett had plenty of valid excuses. He was never healthy during his rookie season and had trouble sleeping, which led him to gaining weight. He probably shouldn’t have been the No. 1 pick, which added extra pressure of carrying around the “bust” label for the majority of his rookie season, something that would negatively impact any young player.
“That has been well documented,” Saunders said on Bennett’s tough rookie season. “When you look at the guy that came to the draft lottery, he was there in a sling. Even when he didn’t know he was going to be the No. 1 pick, he was hurt. And it just kept on going. I know when we made the trade we looked at physically all the things that he went through this past year."
Going into next season, though, Bennett won’t have those excuses. He has a team that is behind him and will give him a fair opportunity to win minutes at the power forward position.
He’ll have a full summer of being healthy while also playing for the Canadian National Team.
Saunders said at his end-of-the-season press conference that he isn’t sure whether or not the team has its power forward of the future on its roster.
It might look like a long shot for Bennett to win the starting spot come next season, but the opportunity for the 22-year-old player really couldn’t be an bigger.
“I’m just working this summer. Just working on a couple things," Bennett said after the team's last game of the season. "I’m pretty sure that goes for everybody. I’m going to put myself up to the challenge and go hard this summer.”
Top Three Games Of The Season
Nov. 21 vs. San Antonio:
Before the game, Bennett said that it was a dream come true playing up against future Hall of Famer power forward Tim Duncan. While the Wolves struggled, falling 121-92, and Duncan played just 23 minutes, Bennett had himself a night.
Bennett played 32 minutes off the bench and scored a career-high 20 points, going 9-for-14 from the field to go with three steals. We got a glimpse of what made Bennett look so good throughout training camp: He was hitting his mid-range jumpers, something that was and should be a staple in his game. While this will likely extend to the three-point line at some point, this game proved that Bennett can been effective from mid-range (four of his nine buckets came 17-feet or deeper).
Jan. 7 at Phoenix:
Bennett helped the Wolves nearly upset the Phoenix Suns in this one, finishing with 14 points and 10 boards. He was efficient in this one as well, shooting 6-for-10 from the field. Again, Bennett’s success was telling given his shot selection. He was 2-for-4 on shots 16-feet or further and 4-for-6 close to the basket.
Bennett was more impressive on the glass, hauling in a team-high 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes of play.
For you +/- lovers, Bennett posted a +2, one of three players to have a positive mark on this night.
Dec. 6 at San Antonio:
The third game on Bennett’s list is also against Duncan and the Spurs. Bennett’s line is nearly identical to his game against Phoenix. The former No. 1 pick finished with 14 points and 10 boards off the bench while shooting 6-for-11 from the field. His range was on display again, as he shot 3-for-6 from 21-feet and beyond. He was also a perfect 3-for-3 at the basket.
This came after a stretch of plenty of playing time for Bennett, which isn’t a surprise. Bennett plays much better when he doesn’t have to worry about being pulled for making a mistake.
He had played 20 or more minutes in six of the last nine games after this game against the Spurs.
Top Offseason Objectives
Play. Play. Play.
For Bennett, the biggest thing going into the offseason is to get plenty of reps. Unlike last season, Bennett will go into this offseason healthy and able to improve his game after taking some time off.
“That’s the plan,” Bennett said in his final media availability session. “That’s what I’m trying to do. Keep going.”
Bennett plans to be out in Los Angeles training, but hasn’t solidified his plan 100 percent yet. What is solidified is that he will be playing for Canada this summer. He’ll head to train with the team around July and will play throughout the FIBA Men’s Championships in Mexico which concludes in early September.
This is a very positive thing for many reasons.
He’ll be staying in shape, which has been an issue for him in the past. He’ll be getting real game action throughout a full summer, something he hasn’t been able to do yet as a pro. And he’ll be playing alongside teammate Andrew Wiggins, building chemistry that should carry over to the 2015-16 season.
A few other things Bennett should work on this offseason:
- Working on his three point shot. We are all aware of how Saunders didn’t show much amusement when AB attempted three pointers and probably rightfully so being he’s only a 26.3 career three-point shooter. An attempt normally led to Bennett being placed on the bench. Want to change Saunders’ mind? Work on those three pointers this offseason and add another tool to your belt.
- Free throws have also been an issue for Bennett. He shot 64.1 percent last season, which isn’t horrible for a second-year post player, but seeing that jump up to even 70 percent would be nice to see.
- Prove he wants it. I’m not sure exactly how one proves this, but when Bennett comes to Minneapolis to start next season, he’s going to have plenty of competition for playing time. How bad does he want to be an NBA player? This offseason will tell us.
They Said It…
“I feel like every year I come into this league, just (trying) to learn something. (I) reach out to people. We have KG now. I’ve been talking to him… Just his vibe, as soon as he comes into the locker room, it gets real serious. On the court he tells you to go hard. If you make a mistake, he’ll pick you up. He’s the first one to pick you up.”— Bennett on the impact Kevin Garnett has had on him.