Mike Brown wants NBA’s Top Pick Anthony Bennett to be a PF

anthony-bennet-cavsWhen the Cleveland Cavaliers took Anthony Bennett number one overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, many speculated that the Cavs would use him at small forward. Sure Bennett mostly played power forward at UNLV, but there are a host of reasons why fans thought he’d play the 3 spot. Here’s a look at some of these reasons:

– The Cavs already have 6’9″ Tristan Thompson at power forward. The Texas product more than proved himself capable of handing starting NBA duties by averaging 11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG and 0.9 BPG. Thompson already shares a similar background with Bennett since the two grew up a mile apart in Toronto and went to the same high school in Nevada’s Findlay Prep (though not at the same time). Now both players will be sharing minutes at the 4 spot.

– Cleveland has a big hole at the small forward position. Alonzo Gee was a serviceable player at this position last year after averaging 10.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 1.3 SPG. But he’s also got some deficiencies here, as can be seen in his shooting (41%) and size (6’6″, 219 pounds). Upgrading the starting 3 seems like it would be a good priority.

anthony-bennett-unlv– Bennett doesn’t have the prototypical size of a 4. Sure his 239-pound weight is about average for the position. However, he’s listed at a generous 6’7″, which isn’t ideal.

Taking all of this into account, it was a little surprising when Cleveland head coach Mike Brown came out and said that Bennett will be used at power forward for the immediate future. He stated:

I got it figured. His ability to score in a lot of different ways is intriguing. His explosiveness is intriguing. His standing reach is higher than lot of guys playing power forward in the league, including Kevin Love. He’s got long arms. There’s a desire to want to be better. He has a lot of upside.

Despite Brown saying that he has it all figured out, one can’t help but question the idea of putting Bennett at small forward. Besides already having Thompson, who started all 82 games last season, Cleveland also acquired Earl Clark this offseason. Last year with the Lakers, Clark played solid off the bench after averaging 7.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 23 MPG.

Perhaps the Cavaliers plan on bringing Bennett along slowly while starting Thompson and using Clark sparsely. Or maybe Brown is just saying that he wants to use Bennett exclusively as a 4 to surprise everybody.

The latter would make just about as much sense as anything else at this point. After all, Cleveland has created a logjam at the power forward position while they have little else at small forward. Perhaps as the season progresses, we’ll see the number one pick used in different roles. But for now, it’s tough seeing how this situation will work.

Cleveland Cavaliers Gamble on Andrew Bynum

andrew-bynum-clevelandLast year, the Philadelphia 76ers paid $16.5 million to watch Andrew Bynum sit in street clothes throughout the entire NBA season. But knee problems and bone bruises don’t scare the Cleveland Cavaliers since they signed Bynum to a two-year, partially-guaranteed contract.

If Bynum performs and meets incentives during his two years in Cleveland, he’ll earn a maximum of $24.5 million. However, he’s only guaranteed $6 million of this amount during the first year. Assuming Bynum meets certain stipulations, he’ll earn up to $12 million in the first season. The second year is a $12.5 million team option that allows Cleveland to cut ties with the 25-year-old if they no longer want him.

Before signing with Philadelphia and sitting out an entire season, Bynum was one of the NBA’s best centers. He averaged 18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG and made the All-Star team during the 2011-12 season. Since jumping directly from high school to the NBA, Bynum has put up career averages of 11.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.6 BPG.

When the Sixers signed Bynum to a one-year, $16.5 million contract, they were hoping to get the same guy who was coming off an All-Star year for the Lakers. Philadelphia shipped Andre Iguodala to Denver, and Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and a first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Bynum and Jason Richardson. After building a team around Bynum, the Sixers thought they could contend for a high playoff seed; what they got instead was a guy who never played and a 34-48 record.

andrew-bynum-76ersLucky for Cleveland, they don’t have to invest as much in the 7-footer since they aren’t banking on his production. The Cavaliers know that the future of their squad lies with 21-year-old’s Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, 22-year-old Tristan Thompson, and newly-drafted 20-year-old Anthony Bennett.

If Bynum pans out, he could join this young core group and help form a playoff contender. What’s more is that the 25-year-old might provide incentive for LeBron James to return to Cleveland during the 2014 free agency period. But if Bynum doesn’t play much, or at all, the Cavs can simply pay him the $6 million and wash their hands of this deal after one season. For Quicken Loans and casino magnate Dan Gilbert, this is a small price to pay for a potential top-5 center.

The Cavs aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this arrangement. Andrew Bynum wasn’t exactly a coveted free agent after 31 other NBA teams saw Philadelphia flush $16.5 million down the drain. So the relatively young center was looking for another opportunity to showcase his skills and prove that his knees aren’t totally shot.

If the Cleveland thing works out, Bynum will earn as much as $24.5 million and lead a strong group of young players. He’ll also hit the free agent market in 2015 with a much loftier status than what he carried this season. And if he has another Philadelphia-type year, well, at least Bynum made an extra $6 million before he enters Greg Oden territory.

Cavaliers shock Basketball World by taking Bennett No. 1

anthony-bennett-nba-draftThe 2013 NBA Draft isn’t even halfway finished yet, but no matter what happens tonight, people are mainly going to be talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers number one pick. The Cavs shocked pretty much everybody involved in the basketball world by taking UNLV forward Anthony Bennett first overall.

Bennett, who won the Mountain West Player of the Year award as a freshman, becomes the first Canadian to go number one in the NBA Draft. He’s also the second UNLV player to be selected with the top pick, an honor he now shares with retired forward Larry Johnson.

Many people who attended the draft were baffled when Bennett was first off the board. According to the DraftExpress mock draft, the 6’7″, 239-pounder was expected to go with the eighth pick. He definitely showed a good overall game by averaging 15.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, and shooting 38.3% from the three-point line. However, he wasn’t exactly considered number one overall pick material coming into tonight. CBS Sports NBA writer Zach Harper summed this up pretty good when he wrote:

Bennett is a big-time scoring prospect, but doesn’t exactly have the cachet of someone you’d expect taken with the top pick. Bennett has a really good face-up game with range out to the 3-point line.

nerlens-noelMany experts thought that the Cavaliers were leaning towards selecting either Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Maryland center Alex Len. After all, Cleveland has a solid young nucleus with PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters and PF Tristan Thompson. So adding a good defensive center would’ve given them another piece to building a future contender. However, they chose to go with Bennett, who’s expected to fill a hole at the starting small forward spot.

Nerlens was another surprise among the 2013 NBA Lottery selections because, not only did he not get taken first, but he also tumbled down to the sixth pick. The New Orleans Pelicans ended his freefall and quickly traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that includes All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.

Nerlens didn’t seem too dispirited about falling down the board as he hugged his mom and smiled at the podium after being picked. “I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn’t thinking I was the No. 1 pick,” the 7-foot shot-blocking specialist said.

victor-oladipoThe Orlando Magic avoided going with a center as well since they took Indiana guard Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick. After getting selected, Oladipo said, “It’s like a weight vest you took off after running five miles. It’s relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it’s just getting started.”

The Washington Wizards kept Georgetown swingman Otto Porter Jr. in town by taking him with the third pick, while the Charlotte Bobcats took Oladipo’s Indiana teammate, PF Cody Zeller, with the fourth selection. Len rounded out the top five when he was taken fifth by the rebuilding Phoenix Suns.

Besides Noel, another surprising fall in the draft was former Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore. Many mock drafts had him going within the top three picks, but he wasn’t taken off the board until the Sacramento Kings grabbed him with the seventh choice.

Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went to the Detroit Pistons with the eighth draft pick. And Michigan guard/2013 Final Four hero Trey Burke was picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves at ninth, then traded to Utah for the 14th and 21st picks.

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum was the first mid-major player to be selected as he rounded out the top 10. The Portland Trailblazers love the point guard’s sharp shooting, as McCollum averaged 23.9 PPG while shooting 51.8% from the three-point arc.

2013 NBA Draft: Who will Cleveland pick First?

nerlens-noelThe NBA Draft Lottery was held last night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers truly hit a jackpot. With just a 15.6% chance of corralling the top pick, Cleveland saw their ping pong ball come up first. So they’ll be making the first selection when the 2013 NBA Draft takes place on June 27th.

While nobody is a slam dunk to be chosen No.1 this year, the popular consensus is that Cleveland will take Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. The 7-footer is pretty raw offensively and has a super-skinny frame at just 210 pounds. But he’s got tremendous upside, is a phenomenal shot-blocker, and fills the Cavaliers’ need for another good frontcourt player.

Anderson Varejao currently plays center for the Cavs and has been an excellent rebounder and solid defender…when he actually plays. However, the 6’11” big man has played just 81 games in the past three years, including 25 last season. Because of Varejao’s injury issues, taking a chance on Nerlens certainly isn’t a bad idea. And even if they’re both healthy, Varejao can play some power forward as well.

American v KansasKansas guard Ben McLemore has also been discussed as a potential number one pick. And it wouldn’t be completely unfathomable to think that Cleveland would choose him if they saw something unique. However, this is a team that took shooting guard Dion Waiters with the fourth pick last year. Plus they have Kyrie Irving at point guard, which would make taking McLemore a little overkill.

One more name that’s been thrown out as a potential number one selection is Otto Porter Jr. This is completely a needs-based pick since Cleveland has a big hole to fill at small forward. But as talented as the Georgetown product is, most analysts don’t see him as the absolute best player in the draft.

otto-porter-jrIf the Cavaliers don’t fall in love with anybody, there’s also the option of trading away the top selection. However, this is a bad idea for a team that’s seemingly tanked the last few years in hopes of stockpiling young talent through the draft. It’s also hard to see Cleveland getting fair value on any potential superstar they’d select number in June.

The wheels have definitely been set in motion for the Cavs to return to competitiveness in the 2013-2014 season. Irving is one of the best young point guards in the league after averaging 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 1.51 SPG and shooting 39.1% from the 3-point line. Waiters had a strong rookie campaign after scoring 14.7 PPG and dishing out 3.0 APG. Tristan Thompson is proving to be a good frontcourt player, following a season where he averaged 11.7 PPG and 9.4 RPG.

Plus this club is loaded with solid role players in C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Marreese Speights, Tyler Zeller. Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Pargo. Will all of this be enough for a playoff run next year? Depending upon how their No. 1 pick develops in the upcoming season, Cleveland definitely could be back in the postseason for the first time in four years.