(Ed. note: This piece originally ran on December 1, 2016. I’m re-posting it because with Bennett’s name in the news after a recent star turn in the G-League, NBA teams are seriously considering signing him to a 10-day contract and seeing what he can do. Enjoy!)
“Jesus, Fox, Anthony Bennett? Are you changing your column to Is This NBA Player Even Still in the League?” I hear some of you saying.
Hardly. I’m just taking the title of my column literally this week, as in is this NBA player any good, like, at all? More specifically, let’s define the myth to be tested here:
Is Anthony Bennett good enough to elevate himself beyond “the worst first overall draft pick of all time”?
Well, let’s go ahead and compare him to the worst first overall draft pick of all time by general consensus, LaRue Martin, who played for the Portland Trail Blazers between 1973 and 1976 before he was unceremoniously let go on the cusp of a season where Portland won the championship, denying him the chance to either screw up that effort or else retire with a ring and put a permanent if rather frivolous end to this argument. I don’t see Anthony Bennett winning a title either, unless he stays in the league 30 years, plays for all 30 teams, and just as a pure matter of random chance lands on one that wins it all in his one season there.
Stats from here out are via Basketball Reference, and go ahead and click here if you want the full breakdown.
The Counting Stats
Martin: 271 games, 14.0 MPG, 41.6 FG%, 68.5 FT%, 5.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG.
Bennett: 138 games, 12.6 MPG, 38.9 FG%, 26.1 3PT%, 65.8 FT%, 4.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG.
Note that Bennett puts up a 41.4 eFG%, which makes comparing him to Martin, who played before there was such a thing as a three-point shot in the NBA, a bit more apples-to-apples.
The Advanced Stats
Martin: .452 TS%, 16.8 REB%, -1.6 OWS, 3.4 DWS, .024 WS/48, 12.1 PER, -4.6 BPM, -1.9 VORP.
Bennett: .450 TS%, 13.6 REB%, -1.0 OWS, 1.2 DWS, .006 WS/48, 10.0 PER, -5.8 BPM, -1.7 VORP.
Keep in mind, VORP is a cumulative stat, and Bennett’s played half as many games and less than half as many minutes as did Martin.
There have been other first-overall draft busts, but at least most of them had some manner of redeeming value. Michael Olowokandi played in 500 games and over 13,000 minutes. He sucked, but he was at least good enough to hold down a roster spot on bad teams. Greg Oden couldn’t stay healthy, but when he was, he actually didn’t suck (.174 WS/48 for his career, which is a perfectly serviceable NBA player, and he managed 25.4 points and 19.4 rebounds per 100 possessions in 2009-10 before suffering a season-ending injury on December 5.) Even Kwame Brown managed to hang around the league for 12 seasons and manage .074 WS/48.
LaRue Martin is the gold standard for guys who were picked first and flat-out sucked…and Bennett’s numbers, both counting and advanced, manage to be even worse.
All you had to do was be better than the worst of all time, Anthony. You couldn’t even do that. Anthony Bennett, you are officially the worst first overall pick ever. Sorted by win shares per 48 minutes, Bennett is 41st out of the 50 players drafted in 2013 to have suited up in an NBA game in the four seasons since. That was a draft that included Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Otto Porter, C.J. McCollum…but nope. Cleveland had to have the worst possible choice.
Is Anthony Bennett any good? Like, any good at all, with any possible redeeming value that could even remotely defend him from the haters?
(don’t worry, the regular edition of this column is still coming. Thursday: Derrick Rose!)