On Tuesday, Adrian Wojnaroski and the wonderfully named Shams Charania reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves reached an agreement with 2013 number one NBA draft pick Anthony Bennett to buy out the remainder of his contract. Read Woj’s post for all the salary cap mumbo-jumbo, but the gist is that Bennett will now go on waivers and if no one claims him, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
From the first moment of his first pro summer league game, Bennett struggled with his weight, his shooting, even his NBA plausibility. The pall of Bill Simmons’ whoa weighed so heavily on him that ahistorical assertions that no one outside of Cleveland thought Bennett was even a top 10 quality pick would be widely accepted– even unnoticed– today if not for the crack gumshoes at Deadspin holding tight to reality.
But whatever the trajectory, Bennett’s fall from number one is now complete. As this guy notes, that puts him in rare, Thabeetian air. It looks like Bennett, 22, is a bust.
But think about that for a second. Anthony Bennett turned 22 years old in March. He was 21 earlier this year.
When Moses Malone passed away earlier this month, Charles Barkley told one of the best wake stories about the former MVP. It goes something like this: Barkley– as the Round Mound of Rebound for the Auburn Tigers– had a hefty college playing weight of around 300 pounds. But when Barkley was a rookie with the Sixers, he struggled getting up and down the court as he was in no kind of NBA basketball shape. To Barkley’s surprise, Malone took him under his wing, kicked his ass, convinced him to cut his weight down to 250, and unleashed one of the most storied horrible three point shooting, Hall of Fame careers of all time.
That first year in Philadelphia, fat Barkley started the season 21 years old. He turned 22 in the dog days of February.
This is not to say that Bennett is a nascent Barkley. Entirely the opposite: at this point it is impossible to know. He is currently still in Schrödinger’s box; any version of him– All Star, starter, towel waiver, barista– could be real. Obviously he faces tremendous challenges if he wants to make a run at Barkley’s ghost. But its not impossible. Who knows what Barkley would have been without Malone. Oliver Miller?
At this point, Bennett would do well to seek out a mentor. Someone like Malone who has had success and can translate the level of work that is needed to climb to the mountaintop. Preferably, someone with a system.