Draft Projection: No. 8: Detroit Pistons
Notes: Insider Only
Positives: Insider Only
Negatives: Insider Only
Summary: June 26 Update: Bennett might be the most versatile player in the draft. He's equally comfortable on the perimeter or in the post. While some will call him a "tweener," Bennett is so talented that he looks more like a mismatch waiting to happen. He'll need to keep his weight down and step up his defense, but he could provide instant offense for whichever team lands him.
Quick fact: Bennett ranked eighth in the nation with 1.3 isolation points per play and did not commit a single turnover on such plays (min. 20 plays).
June 25 Update: If Bennett slides to No. 8, Pistons GM Joe Dumars will be grinning ear-to-ear. For the past three years, one of the top-ranked players in the draft has slid to the Pistons. In 2010, it was Greg Monroe. In 2011, it was Brandon Knight. In 2012, it was Andre Drummond. If Bennett is there, the Pistons would grab him. He can play both the 3 and the 4, can both stretch the floor and play in the post. The Pistons have other needs, including point guard, but Bennett is too much of a talent to pass up. Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams are the other two possibilities in Detroit.
June 24 Update: Bennett landed one 6 rating and one 7 rating and scored an 8 or 9 on every other ballot for our Secret NBA Draft Big Board. He finished just a tick under McLemore and is also seen by most as a very safe pick. Yes, he's a bit of a tweener, but most NBA GMs and scouts see versatility. He's projected to go between 1 and 7 on draft night.
June 18 Update: This one sounds like it's coming down to a showdown between Bennett and Alex Len. Either player would give Charlotte's front line a much-needed scoring boost. The Bobcats have Bismack Biyombo as a defensive presence but not a lot else. Also, don't totally write off Cody Zeller here. I hear he's a dark horse.
June 10 Update: Bennett isn't able to work out because of a shoulder injury, but he's on the workout tour nonetheless. He was in Phoenix this weekend and will be in Washington next week. It sounds like the Wizards, Bobcats and Suns are his primary suitors right now. I doubt he slides past the Pistons at No. 8.
May 28 Update: Bennett wasn't able to play at the combine, nor did he interview. The shoulder surgery doesn't appear to bother teams much; it's more about the fit. He has an NBA-ready game and should be a terrific scorer at the next level, but his lack of ideal size makes him a little more difficult to plug in. The Wizards, Bobcats, Suns and Pistons are all taking a serious look.
May 15 Update: Bennett underwent surgery for a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder last week. The injury will keep him out for up to four months, meaning he'll miss all the workouts and will be limited to interviews. He won't even be at the draft combine. While the injury certainly doesn't help his draft stock, I spoke with a number of GMs who believe it won't necessarily hurt it, either. He's been heavily scouted by teams and was unlikely to do more than 1-on-none workouts with teams anyway. As long as doctors are convinced that the surgery won't have a long-term effect on his career, he's still a top-10 pick.
May 8 Update (Projected No. 6, Kings: The team is in flux right now as the NBA works out who is going to own the team and where it will be located. So any real inside information is pretty hard to come by. The team's biggest need probably is at small forward. However, adding a shoot-first player like Muhammad seems like a disaster waiting to happen, as much of the Kings' roster is populated by similar players.
Enter Bennett. While he also has a tendency to let it fly, there's an upside there that Muhammad lacks. Tuesday's news that Bennett will have rotator cuff surgery, which could keep him out up to four months, might give the Kings second thoughts about drafting him this high. But overall, I think Bennett's the best talent at this point in the draft.
May 2 Update: Bennett has been widely considered a potential No. 1 pick since December, but his pathway to get there has narrowed over the past few months. A few teams, including the Bobcats, Kings, Pistons, Wizards and 76ers, would probably give him a strong look at No. 1. And he'd be taken pretty high by any of the above teams if they win one of the top three spots in the lottery.
Apr 2 Update: Bennett announced on Monday that he was declaring for the 2013 NBA draft. There still seems to be a fair amount of disagreement among NBA scouts regarding Bennett's ultimate place on the Big Board. Some teams have him as high as No. 2. Others have him in the No. 8 to 12 range. Teams that have him high think that his combination of length, athleticism, NBA strength and versatility make him a matchup nightmare in the league. Those who are concerned he's undersized worry that he might be a tweener who's overly focused on his perimeter game. Either way, it looks like there's a very strong chance he's going to be a top-10 pick.
Mar 26 Update: Bennett tore through the Mountain West tournament -- hitting 3s, grabbing boards, banging in the post -- before slamming into wall in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Cal, which isn't necessarily know for its interior defense, gave Bennett problems the whole game and made it look like he really struggled to score against length in the paint. That's not the message you want to start sending to NBA scouts in late March when you are an undersized power forward. With reports now saying Anthony Bennett will enter the NBA draft, I think scouts will move on pretty quickly. He had a huge freshman season at UNLV and has a lot of attributes that would make him a great Top 5 pick.
Mar 13 Update: Bennett continues to suffer the side effects of a shoulder injury caused by sleeping on it weirdly. There seems to be no structural damage, it's more like a pinched nerve, but Bennett has struggled to play in the past few weeks and his production has plummeted. If he's fully healthy by the NCAA tournament, he really has a chance to put himself back in the conversation as the No. 1 pick.
Feb 27 Update: Bennett left four minutes into the Wyoming game on Saturday with a shoulder injury. The injury has been bothering Bennett for a bit, and it's unclear whether the injury itself is serious (head coach Dave Rice says he doesn't think it is), or whether it just needs some time to rest. Before the injury, Bennett had one of the best games of his career against San Diego State, scoring 21 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, blocking three shots and hitting four 3s.
Jan 30 Update: Bennett had an unusually quiet couple of weeks. He had nine points against both San Diego State and Colorado State before dropping 17 against Wyoming and 13 against Nevada. Those two nine-point outings were the only two games this season in which Bennett failed to score in double-digits. Teams have adjusted their scouting reports on Bennett and are constantly double-teaming him and getting physical with him in the paint. To justify his staying this high on the draft board, Bennett is going to have to show scouts he can respond to being the focal point of a Mountain West team's defense.
Jan 16 Update: Bennett laid claim to the title of "best freshman in college basketball" until McLemore started doing his thing a few weeks ago. Bennett has made a seamless transition from high school to college ball thanks to a NBA body, a huge 7-foot-1 wingspan, elite athletic ability and a game that allows him to score inside and out. If he was 2 to 3 inches taller, he'd be a lock for the No. 1 spot.
Dec 17 Update: No player is seeing his NBA stock rise higher than Bennett at the moment. He's been the best freshman in the country, ranks seventh in the NCAA in PER and seems to get better every game. If he was two inches taller, he'd be the clear favorite for the No. 1 pick; however, at 6-foot-7, GMs are still hesitant to move him higher on the list. I wouldn't be. With a 7-foot-1 wingspan, excellent athleticism and a versatile offensive game, I think he's got a very good chance at being the best player in this draft.
Dec 10 Update: Coming into the season, we wrote that Bennett had a chance to be a one-and-done lottery pick. His offensive versatility, along with his NBA strength and elite athleticism all seemed to point toward a bright future in the NBA. He also was going to have an opportunity to step in and get major minutes at UNLV as he was the team's best recruit since Larry Johnson.
Early on, we were alone in that opinion. Some scouts questioned if he was a tweener, but that was the only real knock on his game. Few other media outlets had Bennett as a first-round pick in June, let alone a potential lottery pick. But eight games into his freshman season and that has totally changed. He has been the best freshman in college basketball and had a strong coming-out party against Cal on Sunday, scoring 25 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and willing the banged-up Rebels to a tough road victory.
Bennett has been consistently strong so far this season -- he hasn't shot below 50 percent from the field and has yet to play a bad game. In terms of pure NBA talent, he has been the most impressive player in college basketball.
His lack of elite size (6-8, 240) probably will keep him out of the discussion for the No. 1 pick, but in my mind he has been as good or better than any of the players we've mentioned who could be the top pick in the draft.
Nov 15 Update: Bennett may be a bit of a tweener, but few freshmen have his offensive skills and the opportunity to use them. Bennett can score from anywhere on the floor and he's an elite athlete. He scored 22 points in 20 minutes in his first game for the Runnin' Rebels. If he can lead UNLV deep this year and prove he has a position, he's another player who could easily end up in the lottery.
Oct 23 Update: Bennett is yet another tweener who has NBA scouts split. No one doubts his athletic abilities and in Bennett's case, he's got a full array of offensive weapons. He's an absolute beast in the transition game and he also has sweet range on his jump shot.
In the post, his game is all power right now. He's going to have to improve his low-post moves as he's a bit undersized for the position at the next level (though his 7-1 wingspan helps) or prove to scouts that he can be a full-time wing in the pros.
Expect Bennett to play a starring role right away at UNLV. Scouts love to visit Vegas and I'm sure he's going to get more looks than your average Mountain West player. If he develops, he's a potential lottery pick.
Mar 28 Update: After those first four, the obvious NBA talent starts to drop off considerably. Bennett has an NBA body, is a beast on the boards and can score from everywhere on the floor, but his tweener status (he has the body of a power forward and the height of a small forward) may limit his ceiling somewhat. He's a potential mid- to late-first-round pick. Schools in the mix are Florida, Kentucky, Washington, Oregon and UNLV.