Here at Punch-Drunk Wolves, we’ve lauded UNLV draft prospect Anthony Bennett’s game and NBA prospects over and over. For the uninitiated, Bennett is a bulldozing 6’8’’ forward who’s got a nice handle and a silky smooth stroke (ALLITERATION!), with range out to the three.
But suffice it to say that PDW hopes Bennett ends up in a Timberwolves uniform next season. As the months have passed and I’ve watched and read more about potential draft prospects, I’ve become more-and-more intrigued by Bennett as a possible transcendent player, one whose best-case scenario is something like a Star Child combo that’s one part Charles Barkley and one part Carmelo Anthony.
In short, I’ve come to think I might draft him 1st overall. And although that’s a minority opinion, I’m not alone in that assessment.
Here’s the thing: most draftniks currently project Bennett as the likely 3rd or 4th overall pick. That bodes poorly for the Wolves: they’re currently slotted to have the 9th pick, and would have to move up to get Bennett unless they defy the odds in this year’s Draft Lottery, not to mention the franchise’s entire history of bad Lotto luck. And why should we expect any different? After all the NBA has a habit–and I’m just going to say a “habit”–of producing some pretty incredible storylines (2:25). Storylines that tend not to center around the Wolves unexpectedly being in prime position to draft a sure-thing, no-shit, lock to become an NBA star.
Yet the prospect of the Timberwolves drafting Bennett–who, apart from Noel, is possibly the closest thing this draft has to a sure-thing, no-shit, lock to become a star–increased on Tuesday, when Bennett’s agent told ESPN that Bennett would be having surgery on his left rotator cuff on Wednesday. According to the report, Bennett will miss four months.
That’s a crucial period.
Bennett will likely miss all NBA pre-draft workouts, the NBA draft combine, and probably all NBA summer league action. Regardless of the severity of the injury–it’s to his non-shooting shoulder–NBA teams won’t get to see how he looks against other prospects in workouts or measure his vertical leap, and whichever team drafts him probably won’t even get to see if he looks like a beast in summer league games–that’ll have to wait until the season.
Bottom line is, drafting Bennett is now way riskier, with NBA GMs having to resort largely to using the same method as the rest of us–watching videos like this one and comparing his stats to other prospects and past draft picks–to see if they want to make a huge investment in Bennett.
Is the risk significant enough for Bennett to slide in the draft? Perhaps to #9? The initial word out of Vegas is no: according to Ford’s report, two NBA GMs said they think the surgery is unlikely to affect his draft position. Yet it’s unclear which two GMs were interviewed, what they based this assessment on, and whether Bennett’s agent played any role in arranging those interviews. (The rest of the story appears to be based directly on the agent’s self-reporting of Bennett’s injury).
Given the uncertainty around Bennett, I suspect he’s more likely to drop–at least a few spots–than the initial reports suggest. And if he’s available at #6 or even slides to #7, the Wolves should try to move up to get him.
One potential trade for Bennett would involve Derrick Williams and the rights to the Wolves pick at #9. In that deal, you essentially get a do-over on Williams; better roster balance, which would be consistent with the goal that new POBO Flip Saunders’ expressed in his initial statements last week (unlike Williams, Bennett has the handle to play both forward positions); and a guy far more likely to be an impact player than anyone else projected to be around at #9.