Anthony Bennett is a name Canadians need to get familiar with.
The 6-8 240 pound native of Brampton, Ontario is making waves in the college scene. His prep career started in West Virginia with Mountain State Academy and finished with two solid years at Findlay prep in Las Vegas. His senior year was capped off with a national title over Montverde Academy in a 86-83 OT thriller. AB was always a top 50 prospect so its not right to call him a late bloomer but in regards to high major recruitment the label fits. Bennett blew up in the summer before his senior year, moving from 46th to 7th in the ESPN top 100. Because of this late rise in the rankings Bennett decided to sign late and weigh his options. His final five schools were: Kentucky, Florida, Washington, UNLV, and Oregon. Kentucky was considered to be the favourite, coming off their national championship. However, UNLV was the hometown dark horse that eventually won out.
AB took America by storm scoring at least 19 points in four of his first five games. His first signature performance came against Cal putting up 25 points and grabbing 13 boards. He made several shots down the stretch including this massive dunk.
What’s amazing about this play isn’t just his athletic ability, it’s the situation. With a minute left and his team down 2, AB completely reverses the momentum and sucks the air out of the building. Following the Cal game Bennett was considered a favourite for the freshman of the year and also a candidate for the national player of the year. Now almost two months after the Cal game AB remains a strong contender for freshman of the year. With UNLV seven games into its conference schedule, AB has been constantly doubled and roughed up inside. This explains his decline in points from non conference play (20) to conference play (15). It looks like AB is learning to adapt though after his 25 point performance against Boise State.
Like all prospects AB has his strengths and weaknesses.
1. Athleticism: AB has a mind boggling blend of explosion, raw power, and quickness. He is good for at least one rim rocking two handed jam a game with his patented leg swing reminiscent of a young Shaq. Based on his power alone he is an astounding prospect his x factor is his quickness. AB uses his quickness to get to the rim with ease. When at the rim a strong finish is almost always the case. If not it results in free throws, another area where he thrives getting to the line 6.3 times per game.
2. Skill: The NBA is full of leapers and great athletes. What sets Bennett apart from the pack is his unique package of skill. AB has a solid shooting stroke that allows him to hit 35% of his threes and 70% at the line, as he matures these numbers are likely to improve. Unlike most young players, Bennett does have a very polished mid range game. Because of his ability to make shots defenders have to crowd him and often find themselves getting blown by, lacking the quickness to guard AB on the perimeter. Lastly, his handle is very impressive for a power forward. Coach Dave Rice encourages him to “break out” and push the ball up the court himself after gathering a defensive rebound or making a steal. This is exemplified at the 30 second mark in the video below as he gets the steal and goes coast to coast for the basket.
3: Length: AB is slightly undersized at 6-8. However, he makes up for it with his 7-1 wingspan. He uses his length to challenge and block shots, finish over people at the rim, and helps him grab offensive rebounds where he ranks 8th in the MWC. Here’s a great example where he uses his superior length to make a play at the rim at 10 seconds.
1. Defensive Intensity: At times this year AB has had a lackadaisical approach on the defensive end. There have been multiple times this year where he is a step slow on his rotation and fails to challenge a shot in the paint. Also, he is guilty of leaving his defensive stance and getting beat to the basket. Despite these decencies there are still several positives. AB is still blocking over a shot a game and is top ten in the MWC in defensive rebound percentage. Also, Bennett has been hampered by foul trouble in big games, it seems as though his apathy at times is a product of this. Solution: So how can AB stay out of foul trouble and still be a force on the defensive end? He needs to improve his foot speed. This will help him hedge and recover on pick and rolls it will also help him slide into position on defensive rotations. He is still a freshman and will only get better as the season goes on.
2. Post Game: AB rarely scores with his back to the basket. To be fair though, Bennett gets very few post touches because UNLV lacks passing skill at the guard position to get him the ball where and when he needs it. Their point guard, Anthony Marshall, is a converted shooting guard who is still adjusting to the change. AB has a baby hook but at this point it is still not consistent enough. He has the frame and strength that suggest he should be able to carve out space in the post to get easy looks. Now he just has to develop the moves to finish them. Lastly, he needs to work on his decision making in the post. 2 things to work on:
1. Turn Around Jump Shot: AB is capable of making all sorts of different shots. He is already capable of hitting the 3, pull up jumpers, and has a face up jumper. Clearly he is skilled enough to work on a fade away from the post. Once he adds this shot to his repertoire, it will set up the potential to add multiple secondary moves off shot fakes.
2. Passing Out of the Post: Teams have taken notice that Bennett is UNLV’s primary scorer, with this reputation comes double teams. AB has been a little slow lately recognizing them. He often times is found forcing a shot before the double team can come or waiting too long and turns the ball over. He has five turnovers in his past two games. AB possesses good passing skill in the fast break and eventually that will translate to the half court. With more experience I believe he will recognize double teams earlier and find the open man.
Draft Projection: ESPN draft analyst, Chad Ford has Anthony Bennett ranked fifth on his big board. This is a realistic position for him. Depending on where the balls fall come lottery time, AB could slip out of the top 5. However, he is a lock for the top 10. If he can find his early season form and avoid the freshman wall his stock could even rise into the top 3 if a team really falls in love with him. Pre draft workouts will only help his stock as he is a big time athlete who will thrive in their drills.