In UNLV’s up-tempo system, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett was forced to moonlight as a collegiate center and power forward. It should serve him well in the NBA’s emerging small-ball era, but Bennett’s versatility has also stigmatized him.
There’s no doubt Bennett is talented, but the conundrum for UNLV is whether or not he’s a tweener. Scouts and front offices can’t tell the difference. Versatility would make him a possible future All-Star with range, but tweener status is an insult and a knock on his game.
Bennett’s freshman season was all about the resurgence of the Runnin’ Rebels program, which hasn’t produced a first-round draft pick since 2003. Bennett’s combination of thunder and lightning harkens back to another Runnin’ Rebel from another generation. Twenty-two years ago, Larry Johnson was the latest prototype for a unique, but undersized and explosive inside scorer with a sweet shooting stroke from outside.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury has prevented Bennett from giving scouts a closer look at his perimeter skills in workouts.
The worries are compounded because, unlike Johnson, Bennett didn’t have much time to figure out his position. Johnson was a grown man when he declared for the draft as a senior in 1991. Bennett is built like a grown man at 6´7, 239 pounds and rocks a 7´1 wingspan with legit three-point range. However, scouts question whether he has the quickness to excel on the wing or the size and low-post skills to thrive inside.
The fear is that Bennett is more comparable to Arizona’s Derrick Williams. Williams has fallen off the grid since getting drafted second-overall out of Arizona in 2011, and after his second season, hasn’t even approached the type of effectiveness they expected from the player drafted directly behind Kyrie Irving.
If Williams, who transitioned from Wildcats power forward to Timberwolves small forward, had become a star instead of a possible summer trade chip, Bennett’s upside would probably be getting more love. However, that hasn’t been the case.
Ultimately, Bennett could go as high as second overall to the Washington Wizards or plummet into the teens. Either way, his confidence remains sky-high.
“I just feel like I’m a basketball player. I don’t really have a position. I can play inside. I can play out,” Bennett told The Washington Post. “I can go anywhere in the top five. I feel I can play in any of those systems.”
Whether he’s asked to bang down low with the bigs or flashes his finesse on the wing, whoever drafts Bennett is going to be expecting big things. It doesn’t matter where he’s slotted in the lineup. All Bennett has to do is match them.