Can Anthony Bennett’s career be saved?

Anthony Bennett was the number one overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. You could make the argument that he’s been the worst No. 1 draft pick in the history of the NBA. It is pretty tough to top Greg Oden and Kwame Brown, but Bennett is in the process of earning this dubious distinction.

Since getting drafted, Bennett has played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Toronto Raptors. At the end of February, the Raps waived Bennett so they could sign Jason Thompson. Since Bennett is only 22 years old, he certainly has time to get back on the right track. However, Bennett must fix his game sooner rather than later.

Before the 2013 NBA Draft, not many people were talking about the center from UNLV. Instead, the talk of the draft focused on Nerlens Noel, Trey Burke, Kelly Olynyk, Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, and Otto Porter Jr. In what turned out to be a relatively weak draft, Bennett’s rise to the top of the draft board came as a thunderbolt out of the blue. Everyone thought Nerlens Noel was going to be the first overall pick, but the big man fell to the sixth spot, then got traded from New Orleans to Philadelphia, where he still remains. I was shocked when I heard Anthony Bennett’s name called for the first overall pick, but then I kind of thought what everyone else was thinking–the Cavs probably saw some insane under-the-radar star in Bennett; everything was going to work out just fine for him… and the team.

Not exactly.

He’s had absolutely no success in the NBA, and now at 22, Bennett is unemployed. The Toronto Raptors seemed to be the best place for him, given that he preceded Andrew Wiggins by one year as the first Canadian-born player to be drafted first overall. Going to Toronto should’ve helped clear Bennett’s head, and it should have helped him get on the right side of the NBA coin. So many talented young men can’t figure out how to survive in this league; Toronto could have been the site of Bennett’s restoration, but he didn’t play very well in Canada. The improbable became all too real: Bennett found himself becoming the first number one overall draft pick to play in the NBA D-League.

Where should he go from here? Bennett’s road will be long, the journey arduous. Odds are he will end up going overseas or being a bench warmer with a nonexistent role on a solid NBA team. What needs, though, is to go to a young rebuilding team, like the Philadelphia 76ers. There he will get a real opportunity to log substantial minutes. Then he needs to become the baller a lot of draft experts thought he’d be.

What might need to change, at least at the start: Bennett might not want to think he has to do everything on the court. If he can start by making himself into a rebounder and defender — someone who can add value to a team strictly by dint of his work ethic, he can carve out a place for himself in the league. That’s the starting point. Then the offensive skill set can come along in due time, and he can ripen into the player the Cavs hoped he’d become.

If he gets the opportunity to play on an NBA roster, he needs to produce in the realms of rebounding and defense to continue receiving those minutes. Then, he can bring along his offense — the rest of the story will write itself. Simply because he was the first draft pick in his class, he may get future opportunities other guys may not.

Anthony Bennett’s career isn’t over. Not yet.

In the next few years, a young man must start over and rebuild an NBA identity which has been shaken to its foundations.

About Zac Voynow

Zac is the founder of Complete Philly Coverage. He is the editor-in-chief, and contributes to all aspects of the site. Zac is also a staff writer for Crossover Chronicles.