Signing Anthony Bennett should bring small ball to the Toronto Raptors


Anthony Bennett has officially cleared waivers and signed with the Toronto Raptors. The details of the contract are not yet clear, but it appears the Raptors will be paying the league minimum to retain 2014’s first overall pick for a year.

After a stellar college career at UNLV, Bennett has been unable to find his footing in the NBA for a variety of reasons. Notably, he has no defined NBA position. Will he be able to find his place with the Raptors?

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At 6-8, 240 pounds, Bennett was able to bruise his way around college campuses and do just about anything he wanted. While he is known for his showy two-handed dunks, he also got his fair share of layups and close jumpers. Plus, Bennett could rebound and defend all over the court. He averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during his only college season.

The problem is that he is not quite big or strong enough to play as a regular power forward in the NBA, especially considering he has no ability to spread the floor with 3-pointers. So, he is stuck banging in the paint, which does not tend to go well. More often than not, he settles for long two-pointers instead. His field goal percentage last season was 42%, recording 5.2 and 3.8 rebounds per game in the process.

Bennett is not without his strengths. The key for head coach Dwane Casey is finding a good fit for him within a roster that was designed in his absence. The team already signed a backup center (Bismack Biyombo) and a backup power forward (Luis Scola), but there may still be a shot for Bennett to get decent playing time. Of any big on the roster, he might be the one best suited to play as a small ball center.

If the traditional lineup is not working, which it often didn’t against small ball teams last season, Casey could conceivably run with Bennet at the 5 and Patrick Patterson at the 4. Bennett can’t shoot 3-pointers, but he can certainly defend the perimeter and play with speed. He is also a legitimate athlete with a good basketball I.Q. With time, he could learn to play center, which would allow him to cut to the hoop against slower defenders and finally score efficiently.

When I suggest small ball, I don’t mean as a distant option that could be used in times of crisis. I mean as a consistent method for Casey to gain a leg-up on opposing teams. He already rarely plays Jonas Valanciunas during fourth quarters, so why not give Bennett a swing.

When Bennett boards a plane for his hometown, he will know that he has one last chance to avoid being remembered as the biggest draft bust in NBA history. Let’s hope the Raptors are the right team to rebuild his career.

Next: What does Anthony Bennett bring to the Raptors?

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