While the rest of the world focuses on Kyrie Irving and his counterparts at the impending All-Star weekend in New Orleans, ESPN.com’s David Thorpe thinks that one of his teammates could soon join him if he plays his cards right: Anthony Bennett.
Yes, that Anthony Bennett. The same kid who, just weeks—if not days ago—was called every NBA-related pejorative in the books as he was linked to rumors and demands for NBDL playing time. Fast forward to today and Bennett was one of five Cavalier players left on the floor during a comeback attempt against the Los Angeles Lakers; he’s quietly averaged 9.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes of play over the last three games. His shooting percentage is still dreadful, but Thorpe believes that, with a multi-step process, Bennett could be one of the many players who turned a slow start into stardom—many of which are predicated upon his curreny weight.
Goal No. 1: Get in great shape
Starting right now, Bennett can significantly transform his body by the end of the season. Then he can use that as a springboard to get even slimmer in the offseason. It looks as though he can lose 30-60 pounds in the next six months, and that new body would unlock an incredible set of talents. […] The best part for Bennett is that he has the type of body that should continue to exhibit power and force despite a significant loss of weight.
Goal No. 2: Play athletically and energetically
Bennett looks as though he can be an explosive athlete once he transforms his body. Learning to finish explosively takes time, as well, but it pays huge rewards. He has finished less than 43 percent of his shots at the rim this season, a number that can’t help but improve immensely if he could utilize a newfound athleticism at the rim.
Goal No. 3: Embrace the paint first
Watching Bennett shoot the ball during pregame warm-ups reveals one clear truth — he has a chance to be a special shooter. He has very nice form, uses good arc and has a soft touch overall. But that does not mean he should be camped out behind the 3-point line for much of the game. It’s one thing for a young guard who lacks driving skills to stick to the 3-point line, it’s another thing for a huge power forward to do so. […] To build himself into the most potent offensive force possible, Bennett would be wise to begin and end most possessions inside. He has the size and skill to be more of a factor there, and with a new body, he’d be even more effective.
The end result? A brand new Anthony Bennett.
Thorpe states that, players as talented as Bennett, such as Lamar Odom and Rasheed Wallace, can get lost in their variety of skills. Improving day-to-day, as Bennett appears to have done over the last few weeks, is integral in the confidence needed to continue building toward what the Cavaliers thought they were obtaining when they spent that No. 1 pick this past summer. As Thorpe concludes, it’s still very early and cementing him as a “bust” may be done merely out of the necessity to categorize. “It is a mistake to wonder whether or not he can get there, but it remains fair to ask if he will get there.”