A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

How to turn Anthony Bennett into a useful player next year

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Minnesota bought out Anthony Bennett this week continuing his worst ever start for a #1 pick. With PFs option they liked more in Adriean Payne and Nemanja Bjelica to take back PF minutes the Timberwolves decided they’d seen enough. Bennett wanted a buyout to find a team with playing time.

Does Bennett have a chance to be something in the NBA? Or is he a lost cause?

To start his numbers did improve as a sophomore. In Cleveland his PER was 6.9, WS/48 -0.028, TS% .425 and ORTG 85. In Minnesota his PER was 11.4, WS/48 .017, TS% .458 and ORTG 96. His numbers improved from unspeakable badness to “D League call-up level”.

What strikes me about Bennett’s efficiency in Minnesota is the shot selection. Consider his 16-23 ft and 3pt shooting numbers:

16-23 feet: 46 for 139 (33.1%, .331 eFG)

3-pt: 7 for 22 (31.8%, .477 eFG)

Despite a far higher eFG for his 3 point shots Bennett’s shots came from 16-23 feet. Taking 46.7% of his overall field goals from long 2 led to an inefficient season.

But part of this is design. Flip had a “no 3s” rule for Bennett. To the point where Flip pulled Bennett from games when he attempt a 3 and breaking the rule.

Simply redistributing Bennett shots from midrange to 3 would’ve improved his efficiency. Take Derrick Williams last year who shot 31.4% from 3 for Sacramento but had quality overall averages of .54 TS% and 108 ORTG. The biggest difference is attempting 156 3-pters to 65 16-23 foot jumpers instead of Bennett’s inverse ratio. On numbers-driven teams like Philadelphia or Portland I expect Bennett would be asked to take a high ratio of 3s to long 2s.

Bennett went on to shoot 40% (12 for 30) from 3 at the Pan Am Games and Fiba Americas tournaments. On a shorter 3 point line this is an unreliable number but remains encouraging. His NCAA freshman 3P% of 37.5% also is an encouraging long term sign.

If I’m a team like Portland or Philadelphia and I sign Bennett I have hopes he turns into the next Patrick Patterson. Patterson shot 0 for 5 from 3 his first 2 seasons in Houston. In his 3rd season he broke through and shot 51 for 132 from 3 (38.6%). By 2014-2015 in Toronto he shot 105 for 283 (37.1%) from 3 as a premiere stretch four. Another player he could follow is Meyers Leonard in Portland. Leonard struggled to find minutes his first 2 years. After shooting 3 for 13 combined those seasons from 3, in his 3rd year he shot 47 for 112 (42%) from 3. This gave him an NBA role and now makes an intriguing free agency target next summer if it continues.

Both Patterson and Leonard are quality offensive rebounders at over 2 ORBs per 36 minutes like Bennett. Bennett has averaged 2.3 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes, 2.1 in Minnesota. He shot 68% at the rim with the Timberwolves. In addition to 3s getting offensive rebound putbacks could be a way to carve out a role and up his efficiency.

Bennett is not at their level as a 3pt shooter yet. He has to prove himself there and has to prove he’s not a mental enigma. But this is far from a lost case. His chances of making a Patterson or Leonard like leap have to be “solid”. For all we know just letting him shoot 3s instead of 2s could make him Sacramento Derrick Williams overnight who still drew demand on the free agent market with 2 years, 10 million from the Knicks. This is not as lost a cause as the Timberwolves are treating it.

Written by jr.

September 23, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. You should not use TS% comparing Bennett to Williams as Williams has almost double the free throw rate as Bennett.


    September 23, 2015 at 3:55 pm

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