Using the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft on Anthony Bennett seemed controversial enough. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been under the microscope since, but no matter if judging a struggling No. 1 pick in the midst of his first NBA season is fair or not, it's also fair to judge how the team is utilizing and developing him.
CBS Sports' Ken Berger reports that league executives at the D-League Showcase in Reno are certainly wondering why Bennett isn't part of the event. Writes Berger:
The point is, couldn't Bennett, 20, benefit from a developmental stint in a league where he could get consistent practice reps and meaningful minutes? Especially now, when the Cavs' acquisition of Luol Deng in Monday night's trade with Chicago presumably will push Bennett even further onto the fringe of the Cavs' rotation?
Considering how much he's struggled as a rookie in NBA games, it would make sense for Bennett to be in consideration to play a stint in the D-League. Bennett is shooting just 27.2 percent from the floor, has a 1.0 PER and across the board statistically is having an awful season.
But because he's the first overall pick, it comes down even more so to managing a 20-year-old's psyche.
The embarrassment factor certainly could be a leading reason the Cavs haven't sent Bennett to the D-League's Canton Charge, and it's not as if Cleveland is adverse to the minor leagues -- fellow rookies Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix have spent time with the Charge. On the other hand, it's easy to argue that keeping the forward in Cleveland is even more embarrassing.
Against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, Bennett played 18 minutes, went 1-for-6 from the field, and had five turnovers and four personal fouls. For the first time this season, Bennett's body language made it clear he was broken, Fear the Sword's David Zavac writes:
With 2:10 left in the game Bennett put up a restricted area shot attempt that came up short. The Philadelphia 76ers recovered and led a fast break. Bennett walked back. There had been scattered, soft boos in the minutes preceding this booing, but nothing as loud as when Bennett didn't run back.
The Sixers turned it over and Bennett inbounded. He jogged about 15 feet up the court before walking to the three-point line. When Matthew Dellavedova swung the ball to him, he immediately funneled it to Carrick Felix on the wing. He then walked over to Felix. Didn't jog, didn't slowly run, he walked to Felix (with about 6 seconds left on the shot clock) to set a screen.
Zavac asked Brown about the rookie's body language after the game, and Brown held back from attacking Bennett, who likely is a bit fragile at this point:
"Just like any human he had a tough night and at the time he was probably a little down on himself, and he was thinking more about, you know, his missed dunk or this missed layup or whatever, more than anything else," Brown said. "Tough situation that he has been in and that he was in out there. Nobody wants anybody to walk at any time during the game. It happened and we will move on from there."
Those tough situations are clearly wearing on the rookie, so now it's a matter of what Brown and the Cavs do to turn Bennett's season around.
Until Cleveland makes the move, the D-League question will loom. And with the acquisition of Deng from the Chicago Bulls sapping up potential playing time at one forward spot, the criticism headed the Cavs' way will only build.