Bennett a star-in-waiting among power forward prospects
Bennett's potential has scouts salivating
In a year where there are a lot of maybes, UNLV's freshman power forward Anthony Bennett is as close to a certainty as you will get -- and that's among the reasons why Bennett is almost certain to be a top-four pick in June.
The 20-year-old Canadian was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year, averaging 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27.1 minutes a game. He posted 12 double-doubles for UNLV, which made the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season (and lost in the first round for the fourth straight time). Bennett's not as big as most other power forward prospects, but he's more consistently productive than just about all of them. He finished in the top 25 nationally in Player Efficiency Rating while drawing comparisons with another undersized four from UNLV's recent past that had NBA success -- Larry Johnson. Johnson was a junior with an NCAA championship under his belt when he came out. Bennett doesn't have those credentials. But he's got great potential.
Anthony Bennett averaged 16.1 ppg for UNLV and led it to an NCAA Tournament berth as well.
"He's a beast on the boards," a Southwest Division personnel man said. "He can't guard threes, though; he will have to guard fours. He'll be able to score on the post and trail to shoot threes ... it would be good for him the first year to come off the bench and develop that way instead of being the man. He's a phenomenal teammate. He's serious. He does his work. He's still young, but you have to take him. He's one of the safest guys to take in the draft. You'll feel good about him going into the summer league. You'll be like, 'We're all right.'"
Bennett is aided by long arms that help him do work inside against bigger opponents. And he plays exceptionally hard. Add a deft shooting touch for a man his size (he shot a more than respectable 38 percent from 3-point range), and Bennett could become a prototypical modern-day four in the NBA: capable of scoring from all over the floor, but with the quickness and length to cause a lot of teams matchup problems.
"He's a little bit undersized, but he's got long, long arms," a Northwest Division scout said. "He can score in many ways. He can go inside or outside. He got hurt toward the end of the season so he didn't finish that strong. I like him some, but the more I watch some of these other guys, I like him more ... guys like him, they've been in the league, guys like David West. He can go outside and play with his back to the basket. [But] undersized guys just scare the hell out of me."
Bennett is seen as a power forward prospect with room to grow in the NBA.
One veteran scout believes Bennett will not be more than 6-foot-6 ½ when he's measured in Chicago. That's dangerous territory for a power forward, even one with Bennett's potential.
Another concern is Bennett's history of injuries. He was sidelined for long stretches in his last two seasons at Finlay (Nev.) Prep, and suffered back and shoulder injuries at UNLV. Indeed, his shoulder -- which some NBA teams think was just tendinitis, though others aren't sure -- and an asthma diagnosis are still issues that will have to be assuaged by NBA team doctors when they examine him before the Draft. Bennett's numbers in the Mountain West also leveled off after a hot start.
But most teams believe Bennett's best days are in front of him. They believe he will become a more dominant player as he matures and gets into NBA shape.
"He's going to figure it out, because he's got the scoring piece and he can really shoot the ball," a veteran personnel man said. "... It was just really, really hard to get a look. Was it asthma related? Was it the system? Was it the coach trying to keep him in school? The question is not whether he'll be a good NBA player. I think he'll be a top 9 or 10, serviceable pick. The question is whether he's going to be an All-Star level player. You never really got a full look at him, because the other guys dominated the ball. When you did get a look at him, he was pretty damn good."