Raptors Cage

How Anthony Bennett can help the Toronto Raptors

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a roller-coaster ride of a career already for Anthony Bennett. With the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected the versatile 6’8 power forward out of UNLV. Bennett was selected ahead of names like Victor Oladipo, Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo. What they saw in Bennett was a raw, brolic forward capable of mixing it up in the paint as well as being able to stroke the outside jumper however no one expected Bennett’s draft stock to propel from a lottery selection to the top player in the draft. The Cavaliers saw something in Bennett and took that risk. Two years later and Bennett is currently without a contract after being bought out by the Minnesota Timberwolves. At only 22 years old signing Anthony Bennett is a risk the Toronto Raptors should definitely take.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into training camp the Raptors have one remaining roster spot. The Raptors have had a solid offseason in terms of making the right moves to fill gaping holes in the roster. The Raptors addressed the need for a back-up centre with Bismack Biyombo. They solidified the backcourt with the drafting of Delon Wright and the signing of Cory Joesph. Furthermore they bolstered their front court with two strong veteran presences with DeMarre Carroll and Luis Scola. It could be said that every move made by Masai this summer was ‘safe’.

The loss of Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough and even Chuck Hayes, left the Raptors with the need for another big capable of providing skills that fit with the style the Raptors want to play. Bennett will in no way disrupt what the team has already established. When he has the chance to prove himself on the court works hard and has never been looked at as a team killer – merely a player who’s never truly found his way in the NBA.

At the time of the draft Bennett appeared to be a different breed of stretch four with a chip on his shoulder. With the league transitioning into a smaller and faster game, elite players at Bennett’s position were and still are being coveted. What the Cavs did receive in Bennett was an unhealthy out of shape prospect with extremely lofty expectations.

When you’re a #1 pick you’re looked at as the future of the league…for that season at least. With Bennett’s lack of productivity it would seem that Bennett’s NBA future was bleak. Two seasons into his career and he’s already being written off as one of the worst busts in NBA history…but why? Was it the injuries? Was it the weight issues? Or was it just too much pressure for a player who wasn’t ready to be thrust into the NBA spotlight?NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers-Media Day

If the Raptors were to pursue Bennett it would be a homecoming with more buzz than Cory Joseph. With his #1 pick status there’s always hope that Bennett could still become something special. He’s played scarcely over his first two seasons in the NBA for health and other reasons so he has virtually no where to go but up.

If he’s picked up before clearing waivers that team must respect the final year of what he’s owed. However if no one picks up a flier on Bennett he could be had for the vets minimum if so he should choose. Hopefully there’s mutual interest from both camps as Bennett to the Raptors looks like a match made in Canadian basketball storyline heaven.

The problem with Bennett is that he’s barely shown flashes of what a solid player he is since his college playing days.  It’s like as soon as he hit the league everything went wrong. However this summer during the Pan-Am games and the FIBA Americas, Bennett came to ball with a new attitude. Bennett averaged 15.2 ppg and 7.3 rebounds during the Pan-Am games. He showed his toughness and physicality every moment he was on the court. Bennett was assertive with that whole deer in the headlights look having virtually disappeared.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2015 Pan Am games being hosted in Toronto, Bennett had the opportunity to start his comeback tour by playing consistent and confident basketball in front of a home crowd. Regardless of the competition at the Pan Am games it was a platform for Bennett to prove to the country and himself that he can still play at an elite level. Physically Bennett was in the best shape he’s been in since his college days, and was arguably the most consistent player on team Canada for the summer.

Bennett was an integral part of Team Canada’s bronze medal run in the FIBA Americas basketball Championship. Throughout his international play over the summer Bennett was able to display his diverse skill set. Bennett was a force, providing energy and at points served as an intimidating presence for Team Canada.  For those who still have faith in Bennett’s game it was nice to see him in a dominant role playing good basketball again.

Bennett coming into the mix would provide another physical player for the front-line, as well as a prospect who’s willing to learn and get better. A return to the North side of the border could be exactly what Bennett needs to right the trajectory of his career. As a player likely to clear waivers, Bennett could be signed for the veteran’s minimum which essentially presents the least financial risk possible for the Raptors. The Raptors have one available spot on their roster where Bennett’s main competition for the position would be Michael Kyser, Ronald Roberts Jr. and Axel Toupane.

Winning changes everything and the Raptors have slowly become a franchise known for being successful – at least when it comes to the regular season. The acquisition of Bennett for the Raptors could end up a best case scenario for both parties. Bennett will be in an atmosphere where he’ll comfortable and be pushed on the path of success. It seems that his last two franchises casted him away after failing to make an immediate impact. The Toronto Raptors organization have made the right moves to improve their ability to develop young players. With a patient approach, new facilities and now Raptors 905,  Anthony Bennett and the Toronto Raptors will have everything they need to develop the former number overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

 

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