Anthony Bennett’s Injury And Its Implications For The Timberwolves

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.

There are other good players in the draft, sure. See Exhibits A and  B.

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.

I mean, you don’t really want Michael Carter-Williams or Mason Plumlee, do you, when you’re already having a difficult time selling season tickets?

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14 Comments

Filed under NBA Draft, Timberwolves

14 responses to “Anthony Bennett’s Injury And Its Implications For The Timberwolves

  1. kb

    you can’t be serious…you want ANOTHER tweener forward on this team to come off the bench behind the best power forward in the leauge…in a draft chock full of potentially decent wing talent? what team did you watch last year???

  2. Matt

    You think Bennet has good highlight’s, check out this guy:

    He makes Bennet’s look like a clown show.

  3. Brett A

    I haven’t seen much of Bennett, but I haven’t read anywhere other than here that he can play the 3. You cite his handle and some 3-pt range, but I must say I’m skeptical.
    Furthermore, if we’re thinking trade up to the 5th-6th pick to get a versatile forward, doesn’t Otto Porter fit the mold better? Same height and wingspan, lauded as a SF, 42% on 3s, better assists and steals, and younger despite being a sophomore. Of course, it’s a question whether either of those guys will drop to a viable spot to trade up into, but Otto would certainly be my (admittedly not that educated) pick.

    • You’re right, Bennett isn’t a sure thing as a small forward, but his versatility and ball skills mean he’ll at least be able to play it competently on the offensive end (unlike Derrick Williams, who has proven, time and again, that he can’t fill that spot on either end).

      The Melo analogy is apt in this respect as well: Melo can play three at a high enough level, particularly on the offensive end, but he simply thrives at the four, and the Knicks have been a lot better since Mike Woodson decided to fully exploit that comparative advantage. I’d advocate for Bennett mostly (1) because he has legit All-Star-level potential based on his skill set and the way he uses his body to his advantage, but also because (2) it would free us up to break ties with Derrick Williams now and give us the flexibility to explore Kevin Love’s trade value without it being an obvious bluff and thus getting offers for ten cents on the dollar. Love will opt out, and it isn’t hard to imagine him bolting, so unless you like Derrick Williams as your main contingency plan, you grab the best talent available in a forward-looking way if you’re Flip Saunders.

      And while I don’t think position is the main issue they should worry about – unless, and only unless, they have an opportunity to pick up a potential star at shooting guard (cough, Ben McLemore, cough) – people seem to think Bennett can play some quality minutes as a three. A minute on google turned up a few interesting takes:

      From Chris Mannix: http://tracking.si.com/2013/03/24/anthony-bennett-nba-draft-entering-unlv-lottery-mock/

      From an NBA scout: http://forums.d2jsp.org/topic.php?t=66174300&f=202

      Inconclusive, but again: not the primary issue.

      Finally, the difference between Bennett and Williams is night and day. If anything, Matt’s video above just proves my point. And it isn’t just body type: Bennett has a superior feel for the game and solid fundamentals. Williams, well, if you watched games last season or follow this blog, you already know he’s the diametric opposite.

      I want to like Porter more than I do. I respect his stats and get why people are high on him, but unlike Bennett, every time I watch him I can’t shake the takeaway that he’s soft, unexplosive, and might not be worth a top-5 pick. I think he’ll be a very solid rotation player, but long-term he’s probably a fringe starter for most teams. A guy who looks great if he’s put in the perfect role, but struggles to have a big impact otherwise. So yeah, I’d love him at #9 but not at #3 or #4.

      In all, I think Noel and Bennett are in a top tier by themselves, then McLemore (and maybe Smart) in a second tier, then a third tier occupied by Oladipo and maybe Porter. After that, there’s a steep drop off in my opinion, so I’d look hard at trading that pick if you can’t get Bennett/Noel/McLemore.

      • kb

        he’s on the same team as Kevin Love and we still have a gargantuan hole at SG that could at least competently be filled by CJ McCollum or Kentavious Caldwell Pope. Basically, if this team drafts Bennett – I’m done.

        • kb

          like, here are some players I’d rather have on this roster than Bennett that could be in our range: Oladipo, Porter, McCollum, Gobert, Dieng, KCP. Hell, I would even consider a point guard. Just see no reason to draft a stretch 4 behind the best stretch 4 in the league (and another backup stretch 4 being paid $5 million next year). Please.

      • Brett A

        Good points throughout, and like I already stated with Bennett, I haven’t really seen that much Porter either. In the grand scheme of things, I would definitely rather take a McLemore or Oladipo, with whom I’m more familiar and confident.
        On the hypothetical of Love leaving or being traded: well then the whole game changes… And no, I don’t want the DWill contingency plan either, so perhaps then I could find myself on board the Bennett train. Short of that scenario though, I think I remain skeptical of his usefulness in our rotation.

  4. Dave A.

    Get experience and forget projects. Time to win is now.

  5. Dave A.

    From ESPN website, Thursday:
    DALLAS — “Dallas Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo said he would decline the player option for the second season of his contract, deciding to become a free agent for the second consecutive summer. Mayo, who could have returned to Dallas for $4.2 million, said he hopes to work out a long-term deal with the Mavs.”
    Maybe a good fit for the Wolves.

    • I’ll be interested to see if there’s anything to these rumors. Signing Mayo doesn’t look very feasible from a salary cap perspective. The RUMINT smells fishy. No doubt Wolfson heard *something*, but to me this looks more like a Charley Walters-bomb than a Woj-bomb.

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